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The Effectiveness-Lab

How leaders survive periodic-leadership-bumps

Leaders – Presidents, CEO’s, Family heads, informal honchos of peer groups, will occasionally suffer some turbulence at the helm. At the Effectiveness lab, we call this the periodic leadership bump’ – PLB. PLB’s are bound to happen at any time, and many leaders survive such bumps. PLB’s are part and parcel of the leadership game. However, if not managed well, PLB’s can become chronic and have the potential to bring failure to even the most quintessential of leaders.

Get your team skills profile right Credit:
Get your team skills profile correct

Again, we use an example from the game of football – specifically, the popular English Premier League (EPL) for this PLB blog. As a manager at Chelsea FC in 2015, Jose Mourinho, one of the most decorated football coaches in the world was sacked by Chelsea Football Club.

Mourinho was hit by the PLB at the start of the 2015/16 EPL season. Chelsea FC had been decorated Champions the season before.  A coach of Mourinho’s pedigree, it was expected, would manoeuvre and come out of the PLB safe. However, safety was never to come for Mourinho – there are many theories to explain Mourinho’s failure to survive what in leadership and management is a standard phenomenon: the PLB.

Below are some of the reasons given for Mourinho’s rise and fall during his second spell at Chelsea FC

  • Not allowing players enough time to rest after the 2014/15 EPL end; Mourinho embarked on ill-advised tours of Asia and North-America, which left many of his players tired at the start of the new 2015/16 EPL season
  • A penniless summer transfer window – Mourinho apparently needed to bring in new blood at Chelsea but was not supported by the Chelsea FC board
  • Mourinho is never the savvy PR type of manager; he got embroiled in a quarrel with Eva Carneiro a female football medic that was a darling of many in the EPL – Mourinho tagged her naive for going on to the field and leaving Chelsea with only ten outfield players at a critical moment of the game. Mourinho Vs. Eva, in the public-opinion court, was always going to go one way, Eva’s. Mourinho was summarily judged guilty by the public opinion court and suffered individual brand regression
  • Finally, Mourinho has seen only one thing throughout his life as a professional football manager – SUCCESS. He had never been tested in ‘managing-turbulence’ as he was at Chelsea in late 2015. He is not the ‘defuser’ type – and on many occasions, it appeared like Mourinho was pouring petrol onto the fire. Perhaps, emotional intelligence is not his thing – Mourinho did not go to ’Diplomatic school’:
    ‘’For a manager, learning to cope with losing is nearly as important as learning to cultivate a winning atmosphere. Pressing the right buttons can defuse pressure, but pressing the wrong buttons can have catastrophic consequences. From my perspective, Mourinho’s never played the role of defuser’’

While all the above variables contributed to Mourinho’s PLB at Chelsea in 2015, they are all surmountable, and we can expect a leader of Mourinho’s capability to come out unscarred. Football is won on the football field, by scoring more goals than your opponent. Goals, converted into bottom line game points, is the currency of the game. The more points you get, as compared to your opponent, the better your team’s prowess.

If Mourinho’s on the field results in late 2015 had been good, the PLB would not have turned chronic for him. However, the goals disappeared, and Chelsea found itself low on ‘football currency’ – they were languishing at the low end of the EPL table. Unacceptable it was to Chelsea’s Principals and Mourinho’s time at Chelsea FC was up!

Fast Track to mid-2016 and the pedigree in Mourinho, got him the manager’s job at one of the biggest clubs in the world, Manchester United. As expected, Mourinho’s first three games in charge were wins. However, Mourinho lost games number four and five of the EPL season, and one to his arch-rival and new boy to the EPL Pep Guardiola. The ever present PLB had again hit Mourinho early in a football season – was this going to be a repeat of Mourinho’s troubles at Chelsea FC last year? As is always the case in modern football, the football pundits started working Mourinho really hard.

Come EPL game number six on 24/9/16, against the 2015/16 Champions Leicester City and all eyes were on Mourinho waiting to see if he would stop the PLB. The world was waiting to see another chronic PLB continue to develop. Mourinho beat the Champions 4 – 1. While the jury is still out on Mourinho’s team and whether he has successfully stemmed the PLB, for now, Mourinho proved to the world that PLB’s are manageable.

How to manage PLB’s:

Leaders are like orchestra band conductors – the music is played by the band members and not conductor. The members of the band [read: football players] at Chelsea let down the band Conductor [read: manager Mourinho].

During game number six of the 2016/17 EPL, Manchester United’s players turned up for the manager. The members of the band played the right orchestra music for both the band conductor and the listening audience – and for the latter, they got a rousing applause at the end of the game.

Upon close analysis, Mourinho was able to stop his latest PLB because he had certain profiles of outfield players on the field. All but one of the four Manchester United goals were scored by a defender and midfield players. Mourinho’s team produced galvanising football and four super goals categorised as below:

  • Captain’s goal
  • Genius’s goal
  • Poacher’s goal
  • Leader’s goal

From the above, we classify four types of horizontal-leaders, that CEO’s can depend on  when experiencing the PLB:

  1. Captains – these are formal leaders, frequently an offshoot of the natural leader in four below. Such individuals have the knack to lead and get the very best out of the others. They are respected by their peers. They will rarely let their seniors down. Leaders will delegate to them knowing that they will do all within their means to defend the brand.  Captains aren’t the genius type – they are work horses, whose tenacity delivers value
  2. Geniuses – these are individuals that have mastered the technical detail of their trade. They can be relied upon to do what looks impossible to others – they are quintessential at what they do. They usually are not your natural leaders, but will, and with little effort, produce finessed products/services. They are usually extremely talented at their craft
  3. Poachers – these are individuals with the seventh sense in them; they know where, when, and how to position themselves; their serendipity allows them to take chances, and exploit opportunities as and when they arise. They can be a real saviour to their bosses during PLB’s. These individuals are God-sent
  4. Leaders – these are natural leaders, that always go the extra mile to bring value to the brand. They will fill leadership vacuums – they will lead even without the official title of Captain. These are the individuals that later become team captains

For those of you familiar with the game of Football, and the EPL in particular, from Manchester United’s 4 – 1 win over EPL champions Leicester City yesterday, we witnessed: a Captain’s goal [Smalling], a Genius’s goal [Marta], a Poacher’s goal [Rushford], and a Leader’s goal [Pogba] – their display arrested Mourinho’s latest PLB

CEO’s, look out for these four staff profiles in your teams – one day, they will help you overcome a PLB!


5 responses to “How leaders survive periodic-leadership-bumps”

  1. […] How Leaders Survive Periodic-Leadership-Bumps […]


  2. Being an ardent football fan, this analysis has blown me away. I have learnt a thing or two about managing in turbulent times.


    1. Thanks for reading the blog bwana George! Hope you have the right team Profile at BA 😁


  3. What if the bumps become more frequent. Won’t they break your back? Not sure leaders get used to these bumps that come in different sizes and shapes….

    Great piece. Learnt a lot.




    1. Hello Kairukabi – thanks for reading the blog!


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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