Talent and Leadership: 2 lessons from a football fairy tale

Thursday 5th May, 2016

If someone offered you odds of 5000 to 1, would you take it? Not likely; but Leicester City Football Club has smashed up those odds and won the English Premier League with two rounds remaining. The feat was soooo unlikely; it has been likened to a fairy tale.

placeholderAll the superlatives have already been used in describing Leicester’s 132-year journey from the edge of relegation to achieving the impossible. Books will be written and films will be made about Leicester’s 2016 season and Hollywood won’t even have to make up the happy ending. In the meantime, my blog. As you know, football is gargantuan business and here are just two lessons we can all take from that business:

1. Talent can come from anywhere. Some of Leicester’s best players this season have come up through the ranks from non-league football, which, if you know football, is super unconventional in that world. When working on Talent Solutions, I frequently come across clients who have insular views on the parameters that ‘constitute talent’. They stipulate degree, post-graduate degree, graduate training, industry, or a big 4 background. My experience is that talent is talent. A star can come from a diversity of places, backgrounds and organisations and diversity in experience is a very positive thing. Particularly if you are trying to create something special as a brand or organisation i.e. market differentiation. Cookie cutters don’t always make the best cookies, so do keep an open mind the next time you go to market, you just might be pleasantly surprised.

2. It begins and ends with leadership. Leicester City Manager, Claudio Ranieri, led the team to victory by following a clear strategy, this is a fact. Another fact is Ranieri coalesced a disparate group of good footballers (who by anyone’s reckoning has no business being anywhere near the top of the league) into an exceptional team. The details will be dissected in the years to come, but the corner stone is very simple to me: a great leader with a solid plan can make magic happen, whatever the odds.

So congratulations to Leicester City from our corner of the world. You have achieved the (near) impossible and we should all sit up and take notice of the lessons.


Ricky Davison is a Client Solutions Director at Evolve Intelligence (and a die-hard football fan).