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Review: Leadership the Sven-Goran Eriksson Way

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FootballTitle: Leadership the Sven-Goran Eriksson Way
Authors: Julian Birkinshaw and Stuart Crainer
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Ltd Capstone Publishing Ltd
ISBN: 184112589X
Price: £9.99
Reviewer: Desiree Cox,
Praeceptor Consulting


This book is a real treat amongst business books and is inspirational reading material. The authors have skilfully examined Eriksson’s leadership style comparing the successful application to football with a modern approach to management appropriate for all organisations. Their analysis is supported with well researched examples and commentaries which reinforce the central themes. Their style of writing is fluent, uncomplicated by jargon and enjoyable.

In Sweden, Sven Goran-Eriksson’s leadership style has become so iconic that ‘Att Svenna ditt liv’ or to ‘Sven your life’ now forms part of the Swedish lexicon. The authors have used this to provide self-awareness questionnaires throughout the book to help the reader consider their own leadership style and compare with that of Eriksson. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Sven yourself’ quizzes and the opportunity to analyse my own style.

Leaders need to make their mark from the very beginning and here Sven-Goran Eriksson proved his value. He began by disassociating himself from his past, involving himself in the sport, identifying the problems and highlighting the positive. Then he began to build on this initial start.

He motivates the English football team through trust, providing a calm focus and a positive attitude. His brilliance is born of simplicity, providing clear rules and boundaries with enough structure to hold the team together and sufficient freedom for them to experiment and grow. Even people who know little about leadership recognise the true quality of Eriksson’s calm, collected presence in motivating the English football team.

Leaders today need to have a global outlook regardless of the industry or organisation in which they operate. Birkinshaw and Crainer focus on leadership in Scandinavia using iconic examples of companies such as IKEA, Nokia, Ericsson and ABB. They compare the leadership style with the management styles in the UK, the US, Japan, Germany and France.

Scandinavian organisations lack hierarchical structures, their leaders and CEOs believe in openness and are accessible to their staff and customers. There is far less formality than in the UK or the United States. Many British organisations were heavily influenced by the Japanese focus on quality during the 1980s. During the 1990s the emphasis began to slide towards softer skills and the acknowledgement of emotional intelligence. Now forward-thinking organisations are looking for more emphasis on empowerment, teamwork and consensus. This is becoming evident in some British companies like Virgin and British Petroleum.

The authors have done their research well. Birkinshaw has first-hand experience of Swedish leadership during his time spent teaching at the Stockholm School of Economics. Crainer has worked with some of Sweden’s leading business thinkers.

Overall this is a book I would highly recommend to anyone involved in managing, leading or coaching people. It is a book for reading, for dipping into and reading again.

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