· News

Southgate’s success puts leadership skills in spotlight

Following England’s win at the Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark on Wednesday (7 July) HR professionals are looking to manager Gareth Southgate to break down what makes his leadership so successful.

One of the contributing factors to the England manager's success is his ability to hand-pick diverse talent, argued Shakil Butt, consultant at HR Hero for Hire.

Butt said though he had the option of following the same methods to choose his team as his predecessors, Southgate rethought his strategy to find and develop talent and grow a cohesive team.

He told HR magazine: “The players that he has played and developed during his leadership have grown from game to game and the team we see now are different with each moving part having something unique to bring to the game, not dependent or structured on one star performer alone.”

This has not happened by accident but by design, said Butt.

“Southgate embraced the value of different thinking that comes from have diversity of thought in the room.

“Rather than surrounding himself with football experts, who would end up with group-think mentality and become an echo chamber, he instead sought advice from different disciplines and professions such as the FA Technical Advisory board.

“In addition, Southgate introduced diverse coaches to work directly with the squad. Not your usual suspects but then not your usual results either,” explained Butt.

Creating a diverse team of employees can turn out to be the best skill a leader can have said Caroline Butler, head of HR strategy, reward and employee relations at Hertfordshire County Council.

Butler said it is vital HR help organisations be clear on what they are looking for and where the future gaps are in their workforces.

She told HR magazine: “By just expecting the talent to come from top universities and certain businesses, the people you actually need may be missed. 

“HR have a role in challenging assumptions, and diverse talent is vital to help an organisation be future focused.”

All organisations exist to meet a need or demand from the population, said Butler. 

“Without diversity in talent businesses won’t understand the changing population and demands or the ability and resilience to fill gaps that they may not yet know they have.

“Southgate focused on what he thought England may need in a team as individuals [players] rather than their background, current club experience, etc. 

“A brave leader creates a diverse and talented team that can be adapted to an ever-changing environment – take Southgate’s bravery and conviction to sub a sub – and identifies and shares their own learning honestly with their team,” she said.

James Brook, founder of talent assessment tool, TalentPredix said Southgate breaks the mould of the stereotypical alpha-male English manager, and brings a compassionate, positive, and emotionally intelligent leadership approach to the way he leads and empowers the team.

Speaking to HR magazine he said: “I was struck by one of Grealish’s comments in a post-match interview about what Southgate said to him before he was brought off the bench in the match against Germany.

“Grealish said ‘He just told me to go on and express myself, to play as I usually do with a smile on my face’.

“This shows that Southgate conveys confidence, belief and trust in his players, and he wants them to bring their unique talents and individuality to the way they execute the game plan and as we’ve seen, they generally deliver.”

Changing the way leaders approach talent assessment, as Southgate has done, to focus on a person’s talents, career motivations and personal values will help organisations build peak performing teams, reasoned Brook.

He said: “This will also enhance company culture, giving candidates a greater sense of belonging and the opportunity to thrive.”