I grew up supporting Arsenal FC of England. In fact, I’ll say that I am a staunch supporter of the Club since 1999 when Nwankwo Kanu scored 3 marvelous goals against Chelsea to share the spoils.
My love for the club has grown ever since then. I have been opportune to witness the glory days as well as the bleak period of the Club in the past 15 years.
Despite the pressure from my friends in bigger European Clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea etc. to switch allegiance, I still remained resolute simply because the Club runs in my DNA.
However, as I grew older, I was not only supporting Arsenal FC for the fun of it, rather I began learning from Arsene Wenger’s leadership skills and managerial philosophy. He is indeed one of the greatest and long serving coaches in the round leather game.
Hence in the last 15 years, these are the 3 lessons and 3 mistakes of Arsene Wenger’s leadership skills every leader should know;
- Strict Budget Discipline
Arsene Wenger is known all over the world by football administrators and fans as a miser. He is reputable for buying players at a very cheap price in order to ensure that he doesn’t run into budget deficit.
I call this kind of managerial philosophy ‘operating strictly on budgetary provisions’. For the past one decade, Wenger has not exceeded the budget given to him. In fact, he is always put under pressure to spend money in the transfer window.
The outstanding achievement of Arsene Wenger in terms of strict budget discipline was overseeing Arsenal FC through its transition stage from Highbury to the Emirate Stadium without budget deficit and a fair performance level (top four finish).
- Foresight in identifying future football stars
Foresight is arguably one of the fundamental preconditions for a successful business leader. This is what Arsene Wenger offers Arsenal FC, and it has indeed sustained the Club’s performance over the past 15 years.
It is funny to learn that most clubs football managers actually queue on the line waiting for Wenger to identify promising young players either in the South American or European leagues to kick-start a bidding war. Most times they end up snatching such players from the Gunner’s FC boss.
Most of the big players who are still in the pitch of play today and those who have retired are linked to Wenger’s foresight. Do you know that Zlatan Ibrahimovic had an encounter with Wenger in his youthful days? He nearly snatched Lionel Messi from Barcelona when he signed Cesc Fabregas.
How about Thierry Henry, Hector Bellerin, Samir Nasri, Ashely Cole, Van Persie etc. these players were nobody when he snapped them from their various clubs. The achievements of these players in the world of football today attest for the accuracy of his Wenger’s foresight.
- Wenger is a typical example of an Engaged Employee
It is very rare in our contemporary world to see employees who are so engaged to their organizations as if their whole life depended on it. That is how Wenger is to Arsenal FC.
Wenger is a type of employee that can go the extra miles to achieve the set organizational goals. This he has aptly demonstrated by spending wisely in the transfer market, maintaining a fair profitability level and financial position for the Club, as well as positioning the Club among Europe elite football clubs.
These are what engaged employees offer their organization, and that is actually what Wenger brings to the table for Arsenal FC.
On the contrary, here are what I strongly believe have marred Wenger’s successes in Arsenal FC.
- Delay in Decision Making
Arsene Wenger has been linked with almost all the football players the world. Top stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ardan Turan, Alvaro Moratta, Julian Draxler, Luis Suarez, Douglas Costa, Jackson Martinez, to mention but a few.
Unfortunately, none of these players have adorned the red and white jersey of Arsenal FC. The inability of Wenger to take prompt decision in the transfer windows has grave consequences for the club.
It not enough to have foresight as in the case with Wenger, he has to back it up with prompt financial deals to have quality players capable of mounting a title challenge.
- Poor mentoring of Ex-players
Big European Clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid had all thrived by mentoring their ex-players. Zinedan Zidane, Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone and Luis Enrique are testimonies to the power behind mentoring.
This is not the same story in Arsenal FC. Ex-Arsenal FC players like Patrick Viera, Dennis Bergkamp and Mikel Arteta are doing well in their various clubs. Thierry Henry who was at some point being mentored by Wenger is currently with Belgium.
Mentoring engenders continuity. Arsenal may end up like Manchester United simply because Wenger has not, to the best of my knowledge, had a mentee that will carry on with the Club philosophy.
- Imbalance Priority between profitability and Trophies
Wenger, for the past few years has satisfied the shareholders more to the expense of the fans. Shareholders want dividend while Arsenal supporters worldwide demand trophies.
By satisfying the shareholders with overwhelming profits and starving the fans of trophies have called to questions his leadership abilities.
Organizations, just like football clubs have stakeholders which must be kept satisfied at all times for peaceful co-existence.
Successful leaders have their strengths and weaknesses. The ability to balance these transforms leaders to legends.