Leadership Lessons from Jose Mourinho, “The Special One”

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By Olumide Adeleye

I’m a huge fan of The Blues. They are indomitable; resilient… the best football has to offer (winks). Before you attack me, let me clarify: I can’t identify any of the players. I have zero -or close to zero- passion for football. Being a young Nigerian man, the society has taught me that you must support a club. And although the game has never excited me, I have finally conferred upon myself, “fanship” of Chelsea Football Club. It saves me from many embarrassing moments in discussions with fellow young people who expect me to demonstrate some level of passion for the world’s most popular game.

 

You may ask, “Why choose Chelsea?” Why not the more famous Arsenal or Barcelona? I chose Chelsea at a time when Chelsea dominated the news. The “Special One”, the most controversial coach of recent times, Jose Mourinho, coached the club then.

 

Obviously, I never watched any of the games. However, students in the area would troop out en masse to watch at a viewing centre close by. After the 90-minute game, I would have no option but to listen to their commentaries, which sometimes lasted for over five hours. They would yell at the top of their voices, declaring their love (or hatred) for Jose Mourinho. One thing was clear to me: you either loved or hated him. If you were a football lover at that time however, it was impossible not to talk about him.

 

Jose Mourinho was always in the news. He had indeed branded himself as the “Special One”. As I heard (or was forced to hear) all those conversations about him, I realized that I could learn a lot from him as a strategist and leader. I took some time to study his methods. Here are some of them:

Noise:

“When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started.” – Jose Mourinho

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”- Sun Tzu


Mourinho understood that battles are often won in the field of intimidation and noise making. He learnt to dominate the media and make his version of the story the acceptable one. Jose Mourinho utilized two strong weapons I wish African leaders would master: faith and fear. He motivated his team and made them believe in him. At the same time, he taunted his enemies and played with their minds through his words. Barack Obama won the American elections largely due to media power. In Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign team developed a good media story that struck an image of poverty and identified with the people (“I had no shoes”). It worked! Mostly those who tell the best stories win battles!

 

Teamwork:

“The team is completely close. Anything you say outside, there is no chance it will go inside. So the team is really strong and compact. We know what we want and how to achieve it on the pitch.”- Jose Mourinho


Football is a game of teamwork. So is running an organization, community or country. A true leader has to understand his team, foster unity and discipline. In a team, arguments can take place inside closed doors. But such should not be extended to the public. If you serve under a leader and can’t accept his decisions, the proper thing is to tender your resignation instead of painting him bad while still serving under him. One shall chase a thousand, but two (if they are united) shall chase ten thousand!

 

Respect for Opposition:

“Arsenal have won that advantage, nobody gave it to them. By playing fantastic football and by winning matches and by winning trophies, they won that respect that the opponent has for them”- Jose Mourinho

“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”- Sun Tzu

 

True leadership realizes when the opposition has a point. An incident occurred in Nigeria recently in which the ruling party mauled members of the opposition because they were not in support of the government’s decision. Perhaps most of our nation’s problems would be solved if the ruling party were able to work with the opposition. No egos, no selfish ambitions on either side… just everyone working for the good of the nation.

 

Hard Work:

“I studied Italian five hours a day for many months to ensure I could communicate with the players, media and fans.”- Jose Mourinho


Do you want to get to the top? Work hard! It is history’s biggest secret. Someone postulated that you need 10000 hours of doing the same thing to become an expert at it. When you are the best at what you do, you would have earned the right of leadership.

 

Self Confidence

“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”- Jose Mourinho


If you don’t believe in yourself, you should not expect anyone to believe in you. You have to trust your own decisions and have faith in your own abilities. Often times, self confidence is misconstrued for arrogance. Arrogance is an overbearing, excessive opinion of one’s self. Learn to speak up and stand by what you believe. Learn to ask questions and value your own perspective. Learn to admit when you are wrong without allowing it to deflate your belief in yourself. The best person to sell you is you!

 

By the way, I also think I’m a special one.

 

Image via direttannews