Book: Leadership by Alex Ferguson and Michael Moritz

My job was to make everyone understand the impossible was possible.     That’s the difference between leadership and management.    Alex Ferguson

My job was to make everyone understand the impossible was possible. That’s the difference between leadership and management. Alex Ferguson

 You cannot lead by following… Michael Moritz

No chasing of money. Provide excellence in everything you do, the money will come in…Alex Ferguson


I don’t read many business books. In fact, I don’t read any these days. I stopped that habit long ago as I didn’t learn anything new to what Dale Carnegie taught me three decades ago. (His ‘How to Win Friends… is still the best and read again every few years). My regular reader will know I have read my fair share of sports biographies as I relate the ‘being the best I can be’ attitude these people tend to have in order to be at the top of their game.

So Sir Alex Ferguson sits way up above those at the top of their game.

Just as I finished reading this tomb, I was running a workshop and mentioned I’d just completed the second best book ever. They waited until I breathlessly and without a gap relayed some of my learnings before asking, ‘what was the best one?’


As I learnt from a Sue Barker wall chart as a child, we can never rely on our opponent to make mistakes in order to win. SAF says the way to win is by attacking and over-running the opposing side.

On research: time spent in research is never wasted.

On networking: You have to make everyone feel at home, and that they belong. He’s been influenced by Marks & Spencer, who decades ago in harder times, gave their staff free lunches because some of them were skipping lunch to save money and help their families.

On failing: The only time to give up is when you are dead – already a favourite and chimes with my ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ Bon Jovi mantra.

You don't have to love the team, you have to respect individuals abilities.

SAF accepted anxiety as ‘part of the job and it if it disappeared, that would be the warning sign that I wasn’t up to the job.’

We had a virus that infected everyone. It’s called winning.

I’m unsure if this is true now in the days of flexible working but I see what he means when talking about football: ‘nobody wants a top performer who can only work 3 days a week.’

I’m keen to use the right words as I know the affect they have on people. When you say to people they look miserable, they will feel sad, similarly fat, ill, under nourished etc. SAF talks of refusing to tell players they look tired for the same reason. Instead he will say “you’re so strong, nobody is ever going to be able to keep up with you.”

On confidentiality: he has a small group of confidents, because it takes years to build these relationships. SAF calls it the ‘inner circle too’. I have an inner–circle – will drop everything and do anything for me and the outer-circle – the same but more build of business friends. He quotes his father ‘you only need six people to carry your coffin’.


From Michael Moritz after studying SAF for years:

The great leader will embrace audacity and the unthinkable, will not shirk from making controversial and unpopular decisions, and will have unshakeable confidence in his convictions.

 He will understand that others in the organisation capable of doing things that he himself cannot do or would not do as well.

He will derive more satisfaction from the achievements of his organisation than from his own accomplishments, will not demand outlandish compensation for himself, will treat the organisation’s, money as it were his own and will have no particular need to be singled out by the spotlight.

He will probably watch and listen more than he talks, will not radiate anxiety when the chips are down, will have a keen understanding of what he doesn’t know and a fetching sense of humility.

If he does his job well, people will see him as being tough but fair.

He will definitely not feel the need to be universally loved.

If you know any manager working in your local council with the above attributes, can you introduce them to me please?

I see many people in positions of responsibility who’s only purpose seems to be not lose their power. This is described as ‘having achieved the position he has sought for many years, he will concentrate on making sure that nothing goes wrong on his watch, will be wary about offending others, will shy away from making difficult decisions, will be at ease with the imperfections of compromise, will allow his strategy to be dictated by others, will find refuge in appeasement and court the affection of those around him.’

Moritz writes about SAF knowing how to extract the extra 5% - the difference between silver and gold. I could have copied all 38 pages of the epilogue here as it’s the most excellent summary of leadership I have seen.

 He final point from Moritz: great leaders are competing – not with others – but with the idea of perfection itself. For them, greatness is just never good enough.