Who is more important? – Leaders or Managers?

Friday, 6 July 2017


When general audience are talking about leaders and managers often they use that words synonymously (Ratcliffe, 2013). After analysing the skills of those two roles from different sources, I can finally highlight the diversity between leadership and management and give a clear answer that who is more important in the sport organizations.

Manager vs Leaders

By definition, managers is a trustworthy in working with the assets of the organization. They are dedicated to the organizational success and they emphasizes rationality and control. They are analytical and recognize patterns. Their management style is transactional, they have subordinates and their power is a formal authority. Managers are subordinate too. They are problem solver and risk-averse and they will try to avoid conflict where possible. (Zotos, 2008) (Changingminds.org, 2002) (Zaleznik 2004).

Billy Beane (kitmanlabs.com)Billy Beane (kitmanlabs.com)

A great manager is Billy Beane portrayed by Brad Pitt in the movie Moneyball. He decided to minimize the expenditure and save money to the organization. He was using a scientific approach to evaluate potential and capabilities of the players with the support of statistical analysis; small teams can compete with the big clubs by buying assets that are undervalued by other teams and selling ones that are overvalued by other organizations. Those are merely managerial decisions.

By definition leaders demonstrate integrity and exercise self-denial for the good of the organization. They are dedicated to the well-being of all stakeholders and completely service oriented. They have a transformational style, they develop new approaches to problems and create issues to new opportunity. Leaders even if they are working for the organizations they never belong to them. Their sense of who they are does not depend on position in the work place as indicator of their identity. Leaders have the ability to engage and attract followers with their charismatic style and it does not require a loud personality. They are good with people but in order to keep the leadership, they often retain a degree of separation and aloofness. Their quiet styles that giving credit to others are very effective at creating the loyalty that great leaders engender. (Zotos, 2008) (Haslam and Reicher, 2016) (Zaleznik 2004) (Changingminds.org, 2002).

Carlo Ancelotti (Getty Photo)

Carlo Ancelotti one of the most successful football manager is an expert practitioner in leading talented players and he is the best person to explain the quiet approach to leadership. It is might sound soft and weak but Mr. Ancelotti is highlighting that the quiet leadership is a strength. There is authority being calm and measured, in building trust and making decision in a composed manner, in using influence and encouragement and in being professional in the approach. The power should be implicit, their authority must result from respect and trust than fear. (Ancelotti, Brady, Forde, 2016). Leaders are risk-seeking when they pursuing their vision, they are comfortable with problems and will see ways that others avoid as potential opportunities. (Changingminds.org, 2002).

Ranieri in the light put Mourinho in the shade (Skysport 2016)

The antagonism between Jose Mourinho vs Claudio Ranieri can explain better what leadership means. Mr. Mourinho is the ‘Special One’, Mr. Ranieri is ‘the One who makes Leicester City Special’. Mourinho’s failure follow a path from ‘WE’ to ‘I’. It is a route that lost the support from his followers both players, supporters and the owner. In total contrast Ranieri follow the course from ‘I’ to ‘We’. Claudio by the time arrived at the Foxes had learned the hard way to become a leader from his previous managerial failures. His redemption born when he understand that no longer was his coaching a subject matter of imposing his personal views on the team; rather it was a matter of helping the team discover their collective will (Haslam and Reicher, 2016): ‘When I spoke with the players I realized that they were afraid of the Italian tactics… So I told the players that I trusted them and would speak very little of tactics… They need to be relaxed and not harassed…’ (Percy, 2016). That is one of the reasons that have driven his players to success. It underlies their joint talent to make history (Haslam and Reicher, 2016).

The framework below highlight and give the awareness of differences between being a leader and being a manager.

Subject Leader Manager
Essence Change Stability
Focus Leading people Managing work
Have Followers Subordinates
Horizon Long-term Short-term
Seeks Vision Objectives
Approach Sets direction  Plans detail
Decision Facilitates Makes
Power Personal charisma Formal authority
Appeal to Heart Head
Energy Passion Control
Culture Shapes Enacts
Dynamic Proactive Reactive
Persuasion Sell Tell
Style Transformational Transactional
Exchange Excitement for work Money for work
Likes Striving Action
Wants Achievement Results
Risk Takes Minimizes
Rules Breaks Makes
Conflict Uses Avoids
Direction New roads Existing roads
Truth Seeks Establishes
Concern What is right Being right
Credit Gives Takes
Blame Takes Blames


Keep in mind that a single person can be a leader and simultaneously a manager too. In many sport organization leaders do have subordinates but only because they are also managers. Also managers can be leaders and tend to have followers too (changingminds.org, 2002). All three football managers I mentioned above they have both roles in their club with some differences. Some is more leader than other but all of them are winners.


We can’t say one role is more important than other. Sport organizations need both managers and leaders to succeed and reach their own goals. They both are playing an integral role in the operation of the sport business (Zeleznik, 2004). If a sport institution is running effectively, managers and leaders will work in tandem (Ratcliffe, 2013). Leadership and management need to be collaborative between them and with the organizations. Sport businesses must have a balance between management and leadership depends on the environment in which they operates. If the situation is not changing and the club is stable, the management is essential but at the time of crisis and organizational transformation, leaders has never be more essential. (Ratcliffe, 2013).

In conclusion we can summarize all above descriptions and informations with the follow religious symbol ‘Yin and Yang’. This image describe perfectly how two different roles as Manager and Leader, can actually be compatible and interdependent in the sport business and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.


(Paul Recchia Photo)
Any sport organization to be a successful must have managers with some leadership skills and leaders with some management skills.


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How can the Scottish Football Association create a competitive advantage?

America Saves Scottish Football

Can an American pastime be beneficial to the Scottish Football Association and can create a competitive advantage?  Don’t worry… Donald Trump has nothing to do with this.

The SFA website literally states: “The Scottish FA exists to promote, foster, and develop the game at all levels in this country” (Scottish Football Association, 2016).  They are currently focused on creating a competitive advantage by ‘fostering’ youth ‘development’ by heavily investing resources into the future of Scottish football (PA Sport, 2016).  That leaves one thing the SFA is not currently doing… ‘promoting’.  Hands down the most successfully marketed league in the world is the NFL.  So, what can Scottish football copy from this league and take back home to create a competitive advantage?

An introduction to tailgating…

(SHOWTIME Sports, 2011)

Competitive advantage currently operates on the idea of universality.  While there are many negatives surrounding that idea (especially in the Olympic movement) it is a great concept that the SFA should be looking to make better.  It is beautifully integrated into the culture of tailgating.  Everybody should be able to participate regardless of whether you have tickets to the game.

(Bauer, 2011)

Generally, there are activities set up that allow fan interaction and participation.  Football stadiums have large field goal posts set up for people to practice kicking a ball through, sometimes there are simple combine tests such as the 40-yard dash or vertical jump set up to test people’s athleticism.  Here are some of the basic rules for a successful tailgate party!

“A competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value” (Riley, 2016).

(Riley, 2016)

By using a Differentiation Strategy, the SFA will be able to create a competitive advantage and offer customers a unique experience.  Tailgating is something that no other league in Europe currently offers and it has proven successful in other countries around the world.  For further proof the SFA can study the well received tailgating experience outside the NFL in London series.

(Miketinac, 2014)

An NFL goer spends $196 USD per game on tailgating food, drinks, and other supplies (Wolff-Mann, 2015).  There is a huge opportunity to provide these services to fans at the stadium and see them spend money at the game instead of at the pub where it is already expensive.  The value added from a unique experience like tailgating allows for premium prices to be charged (Michail, 2011).  Additional long term benefits for clubs include increased tickets sales and alumni support (Drenten, Peters, Leigh & Hollenbeck, 2009).

(De Bosscher, De Knop, Van Bottenburg & Shibli, 2006 )

We can look at the SPLISS model for direction on how successful sports organizations and countries create a competitive advantage.  The SFA should be focusing its resources and shaping its structure to achieve competitive advantage based on the pillars outlined.

As stated before, Scotland wants to invest heavily in youth player development.  I believe the SFA are to some extent following this model.  Their focus is on youth development which requires better training facilities, coaching development, talent development, talent identification, etc.  The first pillar in De Bosscher et al (2006) graph is ‘Financial Support’.  What tailgating will do is allow Scotland to create a stronger bottom pillar from which the SFA can balance on.  How can you climb a ladder without the bottom rung?  Increased revenue and fan involvement will allow them to have a larger pool of resources of which to work with.

Can tailgating be considered a useful resource for the SFA in creating a competitive advantage?

Resources are the key to an organisation creating a sustainable competitive advantage (Anderson, Birrer 2011).  The VRIO framework helps to distinguish the difference between temporary and sustainable.

Valuable An experience not seen before in this country which generates further interest in the sport as well as more opportunities for the SFA to profit.

Rare American style tailgating has not been done before in football across the United Kingdom and Scotland would be the first to market; was done with success for the recent NFL games in London.

Imitability It is… if you want to fly 5000 miles to America.  You could argue that a substitute is the current tradition of pub culture in the UK but the concept of tailgating is a very different experience so I would argue it is not.

Organisationally Appropriate Tailgating is accessible for everybody that can come down to the stadium.  You don’t need a ticket to the match to participate, the limit literally comes down to the size of the car park.

What does the SFA currently have to work with?

Scottish football has an incredibly loyal fan base who spend a lot of money on supporting their team.  Supporters are far more likely to attend home matches than they are to travel for away games with 52% of respondents attending 11+ home matches a year (Scottish Football Association, 2013).  64% of those people travel to the stadium by car and 51% attend the match with a group of their male friends (Scottish Football Association, 2013).  Just under a quarter of respondents (23%) go to the games with family or their spouse or children (Scottish Football Association, 2013).  Tailgating will help to change these statistics and bring more families to the game.

Their current spending habits are outlined below:

(Scottish Football Association, 2013)

These are all areas where the NFL tailgating experience takes advantage.  The money goes straight into the team’s pockets and increases their resources with which that can use to improve their team by building better facilities, hiring better coaches, and paying for better players.  A successful tailgate experience directly creates a successful on field product.

Further interest in the report can be found here.

Steps the SFA needs to undertake to implement this:

(Adams, 2012)

To start the SFA should look to implement this concept at national team matches only; control and monitor how well this phenomenon translates to Scotland.  First with the women’s team as traditionally their environment is tamer and easer to see how fans react before rolling it out for the men’s side.

Start by charging food truck vendors to use the space to sell to customers outside the stadium fan zone (Belson, 2013).  It would not be hard to construct a few tents with additional food and drink options.  Set up a beer garden for additional sales before the match starts and intrigue some of the people out of neighbouring bars.  Have a general store that sells a few essential items that tailgaters might need (i.e. weather ponchos, ice for coolers) (Kaplan, 2015).  Finally, maximize on merchandising opportunities by bringing kit and scarf sales outside to official team store kiosks on the car park plaza (Belson, 2013).  Steph made a great comment to me, tailgating isn’t something that requires a lot of time to implement.  This can be tested by the SFA as early as next year.

Why it might not work:

The first thing that pops into everyone’s mind is the weather.  It rains too much in the UK for people to stand out in the cold car park for hours socializing.  Although that doesn’t stop fans in the United States when winter gets to be -25 Celsius and the snow mounds are ten feet tall…

There is history of rival fans being violent.  This separation is already happening in pubs where fans of one team will go to their bar and fans of the other go to a different one.  Some obvious major differences between pubs and car parks but the general concept isn’t too far off.  In America the crowds at NFL games can get rowdy but not to the same level that they do here in the UK.  A more in depth look at whether or not Scottish football fans can support this idea without violence is required.

(Koken, 2012)

Are the car parks large enough to host people outside the stadium (Chula, 2010)?  I haven’t been to very many stadiums across the UK but I feel like Hampden park has a large enough area to trial run some national team games.


(McCarthy, 2016)

The SFA can toy with wearing highlighter pink jerseys all it wants but these small attempts at differentiation have not been effective. It is time for Scottish football to use Porter’s Differential Strategy and go a different direction in trying to fund their projects.  Tailgating can create a unique experience and generate increased fan support as well as provide additional revenue boosts which in turn will create a larger resource pool for the SFA to execute its master plan of exceptional youth development.  These funds are used to create better training facilities and coaching development, boosting the Scottish national program for the long term.  That is how the SFA is going to create a successful, sustainable competitive advantage.  Maybe they can also pay for a different jersey while they’re at it… there must have been a discount on these in the store.


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How can the Scottish Football Association create a competitive advantage?

With the men’s national squad sitting at 67th in the FIFA world rankings, and having failed to reach a major tournament since 1998, gaining a competitive advantage is perhaps more important than ever before for the SFA. But short of cloning everyone’s favourite Scotsman, Steven Naismith, ten times to form a world-class team, what can really be done to drag our beloved Football Association out of these dark times?


Steven Naismith faces up to Ireland’s James McClean in last year’s Euro 2016 qualifier (Daily Record, 2015)

So, what exactly is competitive advantage?

According to Robinson and Minikin (2012), competitive advantage is “the strategic advantage that one organisation has over others that operate within its competitive industry”. My immediate reaction would be that Scotland has absolutely no chance. How can a nation of around 5,000,000 people even begin to compete with Germany, Brazil or even (dare I say it) the Auld Enemy?

The same could be asked about Portugal, a relatively small nation who achieved success at this year’s European Championships in France, despite the disappointment of Ronaldo’s early exit from the final. We could also look at Iceland, who surpassed all expectations at Euro 2016 to knock England out in the last 16. The key point in the definition above is that competitive advantage is a result of strategic planning. To gain this advantage, an organisation must know its strengths, and its weaknesses, and play to these. This is obviously an area in which both Portugal and Iceland are ahead of Scotland’s game…

How can the SFA gain competitive advantage?

Leigh’s lecture slides note that in order to gain a competitive advantage, an organisation must have strategies which:

  • Focus resources on priorities
  • Create alliances with other sports/nations
  • Focus on other events

I hope that by looking at these in turn, a conclusion can be reached on the steps I feel would be appropriate for the SFA to take on this journey.

Focus Resources on Priorities

The obvious priority for the SFA is the men’s first team – the pinnacle of sport in Scotland (albeit not a very high one). I agree with this, but I do feel that to gain this elusive competitive advantage, the organisation needs to look to the future. Writing off a generation, and looking to the future, is possibly the most effective move here. Karamoko Dembele, the 13-year old ‘wonder-kid’ currently playing at Celtic, is eligible for Scotland, England or the Ivory Coast. Having represented Scotland at under 16 level in the Victory Shield, it is widely rumoured that Dembele wants to be a Scotland player, having grown up in the country. If he, and others of his age, meet their potential, is it maybe best for the SFA to pin their hopes on Euro 2024?

If this is the case, the SFA must put as much as it can into youth football. In steps Oriam, Scotland’s new performance sport facility at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Now hosting Youth Internationals and training camps on a regular basis, facilities like this one could become invaluable to the SFA, providing the organisation with access to world-class pitches and sports science technologies.

Create Alliances With Other Nations

It’s no secret that the SPFL is far from world-class in terms of the quality of football being played. The most recent Scotland squad contained just 8 players plying their trade in the domestic leagues, with all but one of the remaining players featuring for English clubs. This may not be an official partnership or alliance, but I would argue that this pattern should continue if we want success on an international level. To gain an advantage, Scottish players must be pitting themselves against the world’s best on a regular basis, and unfortunately this just isn’t going to happen if they’re playing against Partick Thistle four times a year. Having Scottish players competing in the EPL or English Championship (or even further afield in Europe’s other top leagues) will improve the quality of the squad.

Focus on Other Events

I’ve already said that the SFA’s current priority is the men’s first team. But what if they moved away from that? The Women’s National Team, in stark contrast to their male counterparts, sit at a respectable 21st in the FIFA Rankings, and have just qualified for their first major tournament – next year’s European Championships in the Netherlands.

Across the world, footballing nations tend to (with the exception, perhaps, of countries such as Canada and the USA) put the focus on their men’s representative squads. It could be the case that, if the SFA wants to create something with allows them to differentiate themselves and gain a competitive advantage, they should focus on Women’s football, where they are already performing above the level which may be expected of such a small nation.

In women’s football, Scotland again has the issue that the league is not providing a competitive environment for our top players. The SWPL is dominated by Glasgow City, who have won the league for the past 10 seasons. Their only realistic competition comes from Hibs, who this season managed to take both domestic cups back to Edinburgh. This, however, is something which can still be changed. In comparison to the longstanding dominance of the Old Firm in the men’s game, this pattern is relatively new. Professional players are starting to pop up at women’s clubs across the country, which will improve the quality of the league and can hopefully reverse the trend of young girls leaving Scotland to ply their trade in the English WSL or on the Continent.


It’s important to remember that gaining a competitive advantage doesn’t necessarily mean you become the best in the world (which is lucky for the SFA, as that’s just not going to happen). It’s about playing to your strengths, and doing something different so that you can reach your strategic goals. After considering the options above, I would argue that the SFA should look to the future. Whilst it may upset the Tartan Army, it is important that the nation focuses on the promising youth players we have coming through. All too often, young stars fail to live up to their potential and are lost, only to reappear years later in the lower leagues.

Women’s football should also become a priority – this is an area in which Scotland can really excel by being an ‘early adopter’. The SFA should focus on marketing and promoting the team – and encouraging the Tartan Army to follow them in their journey to the Euros next summer. Success breeds success – and it just might be that having a successful and well-supported women’s squad can only serve to help improve the quality and performance of our men’s team too!


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