You will, I am sure, be aware of the football team Manchester United, famous for rocketing David Beckham into super stardom. At the helm of Manchester United was Sir Alex Ferguson. He is without doubt the most successful British manager of all time and has reinvented himself as a bit of a leadership icon.
Arriving at Manchester United in 1986, he went on to accumulate 38 trophies, including five FA Cups, 13 Premier Leagues and two Champions Leagues. He was knighted in 1999, following Manchester United's remarkable Treble campaign.
Sir Alex announced his retirement in 2013, but he continues to serve United as a director and is a Fellow to the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School.
Sitting in the audience I was definitely in the minority, surrounded by young businessmen drinking beer but nevertheless listening attentively to their hero.
Lionel Barber, from The Financial Times, led the discussion with Sir Alex and writer Michael Moritz who as well as Sir Alex’s book penned a book on Steve Jobs. Moritz said they both had in common the drive to lead a company. They were both similarly consumed by their occupation. Sir Alex agrees that without the support of his wife he could never have given so much to Man United.
Throughout the evening Sir Alex displayed his trademark humour to his adoring fans. He discussed his top players, David Beckham’s work ethic and the acquisition of Wayne Rooney. Such was Rooney’s talent that he was spotted at the age of 14, but Ferguson had to wait a couple more years. When asked how he did it, he responded that the real dealmaker was always the mother. You had to get her on side. But it is evident that Sir Alex made sure his players knew he wanted them.
It is no secret that he did not like the press. One of his hobbies now is watching press conferences. You can kill yourself in a press conference he said. He continued; you have to give your fans the message they want to hear. It is one of the most important jobs a manager will have to do.
By the reception at the Royal Festival Hall it is clear that he has given his fans exactly that. His book has already sold out in the UK but is available in Australia. You can order your copy here.
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