Be more Jürgen: Klopp’s people-first leadership at Liverpool FC

Be more Jürgen: Klopp’s people-first leadership at Liverpool FC

By Andrew Loveless

Jürgen Klopp will be stepping down as Liverpool FC manager. During his time in this role, he has transcended the realm of football to become a well-respected and inspiring figure. What lessons can we learn from Klopp to elevate our own leadership skills?

As we are about to see the last of Jürgen Klopp (for a while in the UK anyway) it feels important to celebrate the traits that make him so charismatic and the leadership lessons he offers.

If you don’t know who Klopp is, he has been the manager of Liverpool FC since 2015 and has recently announced that he is standing down at the end of this season, citing his declining energy levels.

In his time at Liverpool, they have won every honour going and the club has been re-established as a global football powerhouse.

In addition to incredible success on the field, Klopp has somehow transcended to become an individual who is not only respected but who genuinely inspires and fascinates.

How does he have this effect on people?  And how can we be more Jürgen?

Emotional honesty and presence

He is honest in his words and body language so what you get is a person who is authentic and real.

This has the effect of making him extremely relatable – we can sense what is going on for him in the moment. We feel some emotional engagement, whether or not we support him or his team.

His goal celebrations and post-match air punching have become legendary and a key connection point between him and the fans.

Sense of humour

In his first press conference he referred to himself as ‘the normal one’, a subversive contrast to one of his early peers José Mourinho, who announced himself as ‘the special one’.

A wry sense of humour is never far from the surface, punctuating the pressure and seriousness of it all.

It helps that he has a big, generous laugh and a set of veneers that can be seen from outer space.

Love for his players and clarity of roles

After every match he runs onto the pitch regardless of the result, to bear hug and have a quick word with every one of his players.

This is not a cursory gesture but seems energetic and heartfelt and it must feel fantastic as a player.

He never misses an opportunity to publicly talk up his players, how proud he is of them, that he could never do what they do and that it is his job to help them thrive.

Keep things in perspective

Whilst he is 100% committed to football success, he regularly reminds us that it is only a game and that there are far more important things going on in the world.

This creates space and context, which helps his players relax and maintain good mental balance.

Humility and respect for others

He knows that he doesn’t have all the answers and respects the input of others.

This helps create ownership amongst the team to come up with solutions and adapt tactics when they need to.

In business language, he empowers each individual to use their intelligence and trusts them to think for themselves.

Philosophy and communication

Klopp shares his philosophy on life in words we can all relate to and, in doing so, communicates his values and expectations, not just to the players but to fans and other stakeholders.

“I like learning more about people; I like to talk to people.”

“It needs time. Nobody wants to hear it, but that’s the truth: if you want to have success in the future, you have to be ready to work now.”

“If you want special results, you have to feel special things and do special things together. You can speak about spirit, or you can live it.”

“Yes, it is one of my ultimate aims – it is the ultimate sense of football: to make the people happy, to let them live some emotions that you usually can’t get.”

“The best football is always about expression of emotion.  Always”

“The challenge is to stay cool enough to handle the pressure in the moment so that you can succeed in the future.”

Can we be more Jürgen?  

Of course, he is a unique figure but then isn’t everyone?

Once you boil it all down, he has developed a growth mindset, communicates clearly and authentically and deploys a set of behaviours that get results.

We can all do this; our challenge is often more to do with transforming our own limiting beliefs than any external factors.

About Andy:

Andy is a culture change expert with over 30 years of experience. Andy specialises in helping organisations achieve a positive workplace culture, using a range of tools and services.

You can find out more here

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