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The Alchemy of Leadership Blog

The Triumph of The Foxes


A lot of words have been written about Leicester City’s unlikely and laudable triumph in the Premier League this week. As the city celebrates long and hard, The Foxes deserve the plaudits coming their way. How did this underdog team come from nowhere to win the incredibly competitive Premier League? There are many lessons for all of us about resilience, sticking to a clear plan, careful selection, training, team spirit, humility, determination, and so on – many of the elements of culture, in other words. The Leicester story will repay careful study.

In the midst of the excitement, it’s understandable that some of the reaction veers on hyperbole. ‘The most amazing sporting story ever’, according to some. Surely, though, Nottingham Forest winning the old Division One in 1978 – having been promoted from Division Two the previous season – followed by twice winning the European Cup, is at least as incredible? And what about Celtic winning the European Cup in 1967, the first club from the UK to do so? The Scottish League cannot provide the competitive intensity of, say, the English, German or French systems, yet the Glasgow club beat the best Europe could offer.

There are plenty of other underdog stories, of course, sometimes in lower-profile sports and sometimes just a long time ago. And there are very many similar stories in business. To pluck a random selection, how about Aberdeen Asset Management, Cairn Energy and Stagecoach, all of which rose from nothing to FTSE100 status within the tenure of one Chief Executive? All remarkable achievements, all recent and all rapid rises to the top. These three outstanding examples all share many of the cultural characteristics of Leicester City. Their leaders have all patiently built strong teams who have executed a clear plan with patience, persistence and clarity, in these cases delivering great results consistently over many years.

It’s not easy pulling all the pieces together to create winners like these. That’s why it’s a rare and special accomplishment. We have plenty to learn from the leaders who have delivered such extraordinary results. We then have the opportunity to develop our own unique approach and take our own teams to the top as well.

© Patrick Macdonald 2016

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