Tuesday, 7 January 2014

SAF and Leadership

As a Man Utd fan I was delighted to get a chance to read Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography over the holidays.  I know, some of you have already decided to stop reading at the very mention of that man’s name but love him or loathe him, you can’t deny he was a great leader.  This is really the 2nd volume of his autobiography.  The first one was published over 10 years ago and really gave an insight into his working class upbringing in Govan in Glasgow and his career as a burly striker and then his foray into management culminating in his unprecedented success at Old Trafford.  When I read that volume many years ago I was particularly struck by how warmly he wrote about the ladies who ran the local mission hall near his street and their obvious concern for the boys in that poor district.

This 2nd volume deals mainly with personalities and various events over the last decade or so as well as giving an insight into his various non-football interests, such as his fascination with dictators(?) and with the assassination of President John F Kennedy in November 1963. Among his books in his library is a biography of the great American football coach Vince Lombardi, one of whose famous sayings was “we never lose, we just run out of time” (Fergie time?).  His determination to be a winner struck a chord with Ferguson’s own ruthless attitude to management – work harder and keep trying as the final whistle approaches. Never give up.  The game’s never over till it’s over.  Until the final whistle goes there are still gains to be made, goals to be scored.  That’s not a bad maxim for any of us - did not the apostle Paul tell us to press on towards the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus? As long as we have breath in our bodies there is still much we can accomplish.

Biographies of great leaders are instructive for those of us who try to exercise leadership at any level as they give us lots of helpful insights into time and man management, self discipline, goal setting, long term planning and myriad other issues small and great. Christian leadership though should never be about the exercise of power or control and certainly never about the spiritual abuse of those under our authority.  Servant leadership is the model.  We serve a great a master and then serve his people – for the cause is much bigger and the rewards are much greater than any football club can offer!!

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