Everywhere I look, there are lessons for leaders to learn – and I wonder what HR leaders have made of the current debacle within the English FA. Another build up to an international football tournament begins, and another leadership failure within the FA is exposed.

Here we have an organisation that has proved time and time again that it possesses an unwavering ability to derail even the slimmest chance of tournament success by having such little idea of what it actually wants from the team’s leader. The timing of the leadership shift around, couldn’t be worse: three months before the start of the European Championships, just at a time when most countries will be gearing up towards squad selection time, England has bigger problems, questioning who exactly will be the one selecting the squad.

It appears that, from a leadership point of view, the past two people put in charge of steering the England ship to glory couldn’t have been more different – the Steve McLaren ‘softly softly’ approach was quickly deemed not to be working, and then it was full swing to Fabio Capello, a man described as a strong character. Well, it seems that this hasn’t worked either.

In fact, what has been lauded as Capello’s key attribute, his strength of character, is seemingly the fundamental reason he left the post – so it begs the question, what does the FA actually want?

Football management, especially at tournament level, surely comes down to being able to pull together a group of players (some with fairly large egos) and organising them so that they play as a cohesive team. Communication is key – ensuring that each player knows exactly what their role is within the team. I wonder how much communication has gone on between the FA and the key players within the England camp? Would Capello have been appointed if the players had been listened to? Not judging by the reactions some of the players had to Capello during the World Cup, that’s for certain.

The popular opinion is that Harry Redknapp is in a good position to take the role and here is a man that the players have openly said they would welcome as their manager. So, why didn’t the FA act sooner to a change to the management, when it clearly hasn’t been working for so long? Or were they waiting for the outcome of the Harry Redknapp trial?

Leaders need to take responsibility for the decisions they take, and when the decisions are made for the right reasons but produce the wrong results, leaders need to stand up and accept they made a mistake. By taking this level of responsibility for situations, leaders send a message to the rest of their organisation, saying it’s OK to make mistakes and this is how we want to deal with it to put it right. Clear channels of communication, and transparency, are necessary  so that when mistakes are made  we admit that we got it wrong, rather than making change after change without accepting responsibility.

It looks as though the FA has shifted its focus from what it wants to what the team requires to perform well, and has started to listen to the players. If Redknapp is appointed, which looks likely, will the FA have made a leadership choice for the entire team?

Emma Littmoden
The Living Leader – Simple, Effective, Sustainable Leadership for Life