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Be more Hallgrímsson: What World Cup manager's style should you adopt and why?

Posted on 15/06/2018 by Gary Fay


The beautiful game is packed full of characters: Drogba’s dives, Sanchez’s sulking and Cantona's Kung Fu kicks will all go down in the annals of history.

But it’s not just the players who are the personalities - it’s the managers too. Mourinho’s cutting comments about fellow managers, Ian Holloway’s comedy interviews and Brian Clough’s huge ego, among others, have ensured that the coaches share the spotlight with the players themselves.

Much like in the corporate world, every football manager is different: each bringing to the sidelines their own blend of skills, management styles and interpersonal qualities that define their roles.

So, with the 2018 World Cup upon us, we’re giving you a reason to watch this year’s tournament in Russia as a work-related task, as we ask, “Which World Cup manager are you?” Or, more pertinently, “Which World Cup manager should you be?”  

The adaptable manager: Didier Deschamps

The ‘one size fits all’ approach is something that French coach Didier Deschamps doesn’t believe in. “Everything you go through has to fit in with the way you are and your own ideas. You wouldn’t be able to do today what coaches did when I was a player. I say something to my son and he tells me I’m prehistoric. You have to live in your time, be of today”, he says.

‘Dede’ has also spoken of the challenges of managing Millennials: external influences on Millennial players and differences in the world in which they’ve grown up mean their mentality and behaviour is a world away from what he experienced as a player. It’s an issue that echoes the corporate world, where Millennial employees in the IT sector increasingly demand a balance of training, technology and fair compensation.

The inclusion of different generational mindsets requires a different managerial style to Dede’s days as a player. “Being a manager is about recognizing talent and knowing how to use it in the right context”, says Deschamps - one of the keys to his success is being able to deal with a range of situations and people. And with this year’s qualifying French squad including the experience of Matuidi alongside the youth of Kimpembe, the fire of Pogba with the intelligence and mindfulness of Umtiti, it’s clear that his system works.

The Marmite manager: Carlos Queiroz

Thanks to his enthusiasm and humour, ‘Big Phil’ Scolari was a popular figure during his 2003-2008 stint as manager of the Portuguese national team. When Carlos Queiroz took over in 2008, however, his more structured, theoretical approach didn’t go down too well. It was the same story for Queiroz at Real Madrid, too.

Now, though, he’s being hailed as a hero by fans of the Iranian national team, after leading them to qualification for two consecutive World Cups.

There are two reasons suggested for his varied successes. The first is that he needs total control - trickier when managing teams featuring superstars like Zidane, Figo and Ronaldo. The second? That he’s better suited to starting from a blank slate, rather than nurturing a pretty much finished product.

It’s not just the Portuguese national team for whom micro-management doesn’t work: it’s a no-no in most organisations, too. An early 2018 survey - predominantly of tech employees - from Comparably highlights micromanagement as being the worst possible quality in an employer. However, as with Queiroz, this granular level of management can work wonders when building a new team completely from scratch.

The nurturing manager: Óscar Tabárez

Known popularly as ‘El Maestro’ (‘The Teacher’), Uruguayan coach Tabárez’s approach is to nurture young players through the youth team system - an approach that has even become known as the ‘Tabárez process’. It’s through this system that he’s shaped superstars like Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez, making the Uruguayan national team a force to be reckoned with.

With the cybersecurity skills gap still vast, taking the Tabárez approach and nurturing young talent will ensure that managers can keep departments running smoothly in the years to come.

At the most basic level, over 50% of English schools fail to offer Computer Science as a GCSE option, according to a report from The Royal Society, who also maintain that the government needs to invest ten times more than its current amount into computing education. However, there are positives: the government’s Cyber Discovery programme and the 2017 launch of the CyberFirst Degree Level Apprenticeship are just two schemes that aim to make this nurturing approach easier.

The idealistic manager: Roberto Martinez

When Catalan manager Martinez took over the reins at Everton in 2013, fans were worried. After pragmatist David Moyes’ spell at the helm, how would idealist Martinez fare? They need not have worried: he was the first Everton manager to avoid defeat in the first six games, and gave them their record Premier League points total in his first season.

In an interview during his time as Everton manager, Martinez gave an insight into his uncompromising, idealistic approach to his job. “I believe the game should be played in a specific manner,” he said. “Taking risks, getting on the ball and relying on the talent of the players to score goals rather than systems and dead-ball situations, keeping clean sheets and not taking risks.” He has also become known as a manager who lavishes praise on his players even when results don’t go his team’s way.

Positivity from a manager is no bad thing, but excessive positivity even during harder times can come across as ingenuine - and even irritating. Idealism can be a strong trait in a manager, but only when countered by a healthy dose of pragmatism - as this interview with Neal Ashkanasy of the University of Queensland explains.


The forward-thinking manager: Lars Lagerbäck

Cross-skilling is one option for those looking to progress to a managerial role where they are currently not quite the right fit, but the Icelandic national football team have employed a different approach. Instead of one manager, they have two: the combined force of the experience of Lars Lagerbäck and the enthusiasm of Heimir Hallgrímsson.

Under the pair’s combined management and by being forward-thinking, Iceland qualified for both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup - the first major tournament qualifications in the team’s history.

When Lagerbäck initially took the managerial role, he saw the strength of the youth players coming through and knew the team could have a bright future - despite the paucity of player choice in the sparsely populated country. Rather than the size of the Icelandic population being a threat, though, Lagerbäck saw it as an opportunity, realising that forward planning was key to trust and success - especially with Swedish Lagerbäck being an ‘outsider’.

Training up semi-pro coach (and part-time dentist) Heimir Hallgrímsson was a way to endear himself to the home fans, as well as planning for the future. “I think it's really vital for a small country like ours to keep the continuity going", said Heimir, "So don't change that today and this tomorrow, just build on what we are doing slowly.”

Investing in the team’s future is a great way for Lagerbäck to build trust amongst players and fans alike - and the same goes for managers in more traditional business roles, too. Whether it’s succession planning, increasing the size or scope of the team, investing in new hardware or software or improving staff training, IT managers will find that looking ahead will serve them well in the here and now.


Five different managers, five very different management styles. In football, as well as in business, there is no single right style of management that guarantees success. Instead, a combination of strong soft skills and finding the role that’s the perfect fit can spell the difference between a successful manager and a poor one.

As the great Bill Shankly once said, “A lot of football success is in the mind. You must believe you are the best and then make sure that you are.” In football and in the corporate world, a good manager is adaptable, deciding on their approach based on specific circumstances. Which one most represents you - and which could you do with learning from?

Are you management-ready? Take a look at our current vacancies to find your next leadership role.


Image credit:

Tasnim News Agency [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons