The quality and ability of Robin Van Persie. The dedication and work rate of David Beckham. And the hunger, drive and sheer will to win of Roy Keane. Put them together and what have you got? The ultimate footballer? Almost certainly.
But ask Manchester United man John Shiels and he’ll tell you that you also have some of the essential qualities that will take any business to the top of the table.
Shiels, the CEO of the Manchester United Foundation, the charitable arm of the football phenomenon, was in Dubai this week as a guest of the club’s training kit and logistics sponsor DHL.
He lectured selected employees of the firm and some of their business affiliates on how the same winning mentality and principles on the pitch can be transferred to the world of business.
“Manchester United’s goal is to be the best football club in the world – on and off the field,” he said.
According to Shiels, to get to the top of the table in any business – be that football, finance or farming – the characteristics of the person at the top are key.
“Where possible, the top performers in any business don’t go to work each day – they go to something that they love doing.
“I say to my boys, love what you do and do what you love.
“You need people at the top of businesses that can set that tone and inspire and make people aspirational.”
Just ask anyone at Manchester United, where the recently retired Sir Alex Ferguson hauled in an astonishing 38 trophies in 26 years as Old Trafford manager.
Ferguson’s characteristics as a boss?
A born winner – fiercely tough and uncompromising.
But Shiels vividly remembers when he joined the longlist of men – including Keane, Ryan Giggs and Bryan Robson – who would “run through a brick wall” for Ferguson.
In the summer of 2001, Shiels was a part-time youth coach at the club when he was called back from a pre-season tour of Thailand with the news his mum had fallen ill. She never recovered and died.
Three weeks later, Shiels was coaching a group of children when he heard Ferguson bellowing: “John! John!”
He was surprised the Glaswegian growler even knew his name – but thinking he was in for a famous Fergie rollicking, he trudged forward, head bowed.
“John, I’m so sorry to hear about your mum,” said Ferguson. “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.”
While ability, ambition, drive and passion are all essentials, Shiels believes the real mark of a true leader is caring for – and knowing about – your employees.
And it was that part of the lecture that rocketed into the top corner – like Wayne Rooney’s famous overhead kick against Manchester City – for Jinou managing director Adil Siddiqi.
The Dubai-based promotional giveaways boss, who said he’d got “a lot of tips” from the talk, told 7DAYS: “I think unity is very important and it’s extremely important to have a winning team – you definitely get more from your employees if they feel you care about them.”
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