Salon Leadership Inspiration from Alex Ferguson


I have recently read Leading, a book by Alex Ferguson. He is arguably the most successful football manager of all time and at Manchester United, creating a winning culture over many years, all the while managing young people who were very much in the public eye.

To create a winning culture in a very competitive environment is a feat. To do so with that much consistency over many years is no different from you or I running a successful salon. In fact, it goes without saying, it’s probably much harder.

The book is easy to read, down to earth and although it revolves around football, has lots of easy to understand snippets that have once again reminded me the many facets of great leadership.

Like all good books, I find myself taking away a few snippets, which is where a Kindle comes into its own for keeping notes to come back to. So, I thought I’d share them. I’d also recommend reading the book (from only £5.99). Even if you are not a football fan, there is plenty of food for thought about Leadership.

“It is so much easier to produce a consistent level of high performance when you nourish youngsters, help them develop and provide a pathway to success.”

“Getting an organisation into balance doesn’t occur once. It requires perpetual work. I felt I was always re-tuning things.”

“The task of building and maintaining a team is never done. Not only are there injuries, or the fatigue that can set in during a very long season, but you also have to deal with Father Time… Top-flight teams are in a perpetual state of evolution, and woe betide the manager who gets lulled into feeling that particular players can go on for ever. I was always on the lookout for new players… Whenever we came across a player of unusual ability, the unspoken question was whether he would serve us better than the current incumbent.”

“Every member of a team has got to understand that they are part of a jigsaw puzzle. If you remove one piece, the picture doesn’t look right. Each player has to understand the qualities and strengths of their team-mates. In football eight players, not 11, win games, because everybody has off-days and it’s almost impossible to make 11 people play to perfection simultaneously.”

“The other virtue I prized was reliability. I wanted players who were fit to play in every game. Nobody would want to run an organisation whose top performers could only appear for work three days a week.”

“Obviously I found it easier to get on with some players rather than others, but irrespective of any private feelings, I wanted the very best team on the field. You don’t have to love your players or your management team, but you do need to respect their abilities.”

“For the newcomer everything was unfamiliar… our system of play and, in particular, the habits and quirks of other players. The boys who had grown into men at Manchester United… they trusted each other’s judgements and had that sense of fellowship which is the glue for any group of people who want to outperform competitors. The newcomer did not have that advantage, which is why I always tried to make sure that I wasn’t integrating a lot of new players into the first team at the same time.”

“Another thing I had to look out for were character clashes. If people are so selfish that they are only thinking about themselves, it just doesn’t work. When people start butting heads it destroys a team.”

“The second attribute I wanted [for a Captain]was someone I could trust to convey my desires, and the third was a person whom the other players would respect as a leader and whose instructions they would follow. Not every creative person is born to be a leader.”

“You don’t get the best out of people by hitting them with an iron rod. You do so by gaining their respect, getting them accustomed to triumphs and convincing them that they are capable of improving their performance. It turns out that the two most powerful words in the English language are, ‘Well done’. Much of leadership is about extracting that extra 5 per cent of performance that individuals did not know they possessed.”

“Some managers try to be popular with the players and become one of the boys. It never works. As a leader, you don’t need to be loved, though it is useful, on occasion, to be feared. But, most of all, you need to be respected. There are just some natural boundaries, and when those get crossed it makes life harder.”

“I had to make a lot of horrible decisions and I had to be ruthless. I never expected the players to love me, but neither did I want them to hate me, because that would have made it impossible to extract the most from them. All I wanted was for them to respect me and follow my instructions. Unless you understand people, it’s very hard to motivate them.”

“Another crucial ingredient of motivation is consistency. As a leader you can’t run from one side of the ship to the other. People need to feel that you have unshakeable confidence in a particular approach. If you can’t show this, you’ll lose the team very quickly.”

“Leaders are usually unaware, or at least underestimate, the motivating power of their presence. Nobody sees themselves as others see them… The lesson I absorbed was that even if I said nothing during the practice, my physical presence was a more important motivational tool than I had realised. Anyone who is in charge of a group of people has got to have a strong personality. That doesn’t mean dominating every conversation or speaking at the top of your voice. Some quiet people have very strong personalities and rooms fall silent when they have something to say. A strong personality is an expression of inner strength and fortitude.”

“If you hope to motivate people, you need to know when to prey on their insecurities and when to bolster their self-confidence. People perform best when they know they have earned the trust of their leader.”

“Complacency is a disease, especially for individuals and organisations that have enjoyed success. It’s like dry rot or woodworm because, once damp gets into the brickwork or insects into the wood, you don’t notice the damage until it is too late.”

“The world is full of able managers. At United we had plenty of people who could manage aspects of our activities far better than I could. I slowly came to understand that my job was different. It was to set very high standards. It was to help everyone else believe they could do things that they didn’t think they were capable of. It was to chart a course that had not been pursued before. It was to make everyone understand that the impossible was possible. That’s the difference between leadership and management.”

“Any leader is a salesman–and he has to sell to the inside of his organisation and to the outside. Anyone who aspires to be a great leader needs to excel at selling his ideas and aspirations to others. Sometimes you have to persuade people to do things they don’t want to do, or to sell them on the idea that they can achieve something they had not dreamed about.”

Like I said, I very much suggest reading the whole book, there are a lot of takeaways that may inspire you to be the Alex Ferguson of salons.


About Author

Working in Hampshire (UK), I have a beauty business with four salons. I'm the guy that sits in the office doing marketing and numbers. My experiences are based on these skills.

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