The Power and the Glory in the beautiful game and beyond: The Red Bull Leipzig case

October 15, 2014

Paul Hinks and Tudor Rickards

Red Bull Leipzig is one example of the way financial power is creating sporting success in football. In Germany, there has been a reaction from opposing fans on ethical and cultural grounds

Germany’s framework for sustainable football success centres on a “50+1” model where 51% of each club must be owned by its members – to date the model appears to have worked well in serving Germany’s football community.

The fans as important stakeholders

In brief, external parties (including large firms) are permitted to invest in Germany’s domestic football clubs – however they’re barred from having overall control. The boards are chosen by the club’s shareholders and its members (typically also supporters) These stakeholders directly influence how their club is run.

When Red Bull visited Union Berlin

On 21st September 2014 when Red Bull Leipzig played Union Berlin at their Försterei stadium, Red Bull Leipzig were greeted with 15 minutes of silence from the 20,000 Union Berlin spectators who were clad almost entirely in black. The Guardian provided more insight:

With permission from Union’s management, fans had handed out black plastic ponchos at the gates, along with a pamphlet headlined, “Football culture is dying in Leipzig – Union is alive”.

“Today’s opponent embodies everything that we at Union don’t want from football”, it read. “A marketing product pushed by financial interests […], players with euro signs in their eyes […], supported by brainwashed consumers in the stands who have never heard anything of fan ownership”.

A banner inside the stadium stated: “Football needs workers’ participation, loyalty, standing terraces, emotion, financial fair play, tradition, transparency, passion, history, independence.”

Not a black and white story

This not a simple story of right versus wrong, or David versus Goliath. It may be a battle between two sets of values. Berlin represents the communitarian values found in German league football. But that has to be connoted with the fact that idealism has not prevented the dominance of one club, Bayern Munich. Does this make Bayern the object of wider cultural opprobrium?
In the context of Red Bull, it has been argued [link in German] that some balancing financial power is needed to break the dominance of Bayern.

How about Real Madrid and Barcelona?

In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona are both financial powerhouses. Barca has a cosy communitarian image, Real the commercial and ruthless one. Again, it may not be as simple as that. Despite Barca’s splendid fan-friendly way and support of good causes, it has received favoured treatment at State level.

Power and Leadership

Despite Red Bull being portrayed as the villain by FC Berlin fans – there is something intriguing about Red Bull’s motives and what they’re aiming to achieve here. Red Bull has a track record of successful investment in other sporting franchises, so FC Leipzig isn’t some kind of new and bizarre experiment; Red Bull are following their previous blueprints for success at Red Bull Saltzberg and also at New York Red Bull.

The spirit of sport

No doubt, football romantics would prefer a vista where all are equal and everyone is given their equal chance. For Berlin’s fans to dress in black and lead a silence of 15mins demonstrates unity and belief in a set of values – values which are increasingly diluted in a football world dominated by high commercial stakes.


Potemkin villages and the politics of Formula 1 racing

October 11, 2014


Formula 1 heads for Sochi and the Russian Grand Prix, where a huge PR budget has been described as producing an example of a modern day Potemkin village

The Telegraph came up with the brilliant analogy of the Sochi site as a modern-day Potemkin village.

Potemkin village

Catherine the Great, accompanied by a gaggle of courtiers, made an unprecedented six-month trip to Novorossia – literally ‘New Russia’ – now the much disputed and fought-over territories of eastern Ukraine. As governor of the region, Grigory Potemkin, a favourite and lover of the empress, was tasked with impressing Russia’s allies along the journey.

The tale goes that Potemkin’s men would assemble mobile villages, dressing up as peasants, before moving the settlement down the Dnieper River overnight for inspection by Catherine the next day. The notion of a ‘Potemkin village’, a facade concocted to hide an undesirable reality, was born.

The Sochi Autodrom, more than 300 miles away on the shores of the Black Sea, has all the hallmarks of a modern-day Potemkin village.

Similar to a simulacrum?

I have been looking for a way of explaining a simulacrum for students of symbolic leadership. A simulacrum is a term for a representation of an original that never existed.

Maybe, in future I will offer Potemkin villages, and The Sochi Autodrome to my descriptions.


Oliver Wilson beats McIlroy and himself to win the Dunhill Links Open

October 8, 2014

The sporting story of the year is the victory of Oliver Wilson ranked World no 792 over Rory McIlroy, World No 1, at the Dunhill Links Open. It will inspire a generation of players. But how did it happen?

The story seems one more rerun of a movie in which the nice guy hero is heading for the top and starts to fall back from the elite group of players to lose his playing rights for top tournaments then continues his fall until he reaches the ignominy of needing a wild card even to play at the Dunhill event.

After three rounds he has surprised everyone by leading a field all of whose players greatly outrank him. News reports suggest he has had his moment of fame before others will sweep past him on the final day.

Put not your faith in numbers

As far as I have been able to find out, no-one before the event had backed the rank outsider. After the third day, Wilson gave an interview in which he said the right things about playing well enough the next day to give himself a chance of winning. It didn’t sound convincing. I expected one of the chasing pack would out-score him by a few strokes.

That’s what you would conclude from evidence of countless tournaments on the assumption that the top players would all score randomly around par. That is also why stats can always be used to suggest probabilities, but not not certainties.

What happened next?

Wilson did go on playing good golf. Incredibly good for the lowest ranked player in the field. Good enough to keep ahead on the World No 1, who did indeed play one of those low scoring rounds, and finished a stroke behind Wilson.

Oliver’s efforts have changed his future career

What is a certainty now, is that Oliver’s future will be different from what anyone expected a week ago. He has financial and professional security for at least two years,with exemptions from qualifying on European tour events.

How did it happen?

The answer is both simple and at the same time treacherously difficult to suggest with any confidence. Wilson identifies a critical incident which helped him iron out technical weaknesses in his swing.

Psychological alchemy

This came about from generous advice from a fellow professional, Robert Rock. The technical advice, by some psychological alchemy, was transmuted into confidence in Wilson, and into belief that he could survive playing a bad shot and get back to playing good ones.

That is what Wilson believes. This is very much a case of sense-making when otherwise the story has no meaning.

What happens next?

Oliver Wilson faces more personal challenges. For a while his progress becomes news. No pressure there, then Oliver.


Dilemmas for Doctoral candidates

October 4, 2014

Doctoral candidates face the two challenges of making a contribution to knowledge and of defending their claims against the toughest of scrutiny. The methodology of conceptual mapping and examination of dilemmas offers an additional research approach

The principles were outlined in 2006 in the first edition of the book Dilemmas of Leadership, a post-graduate teaching text. An earlier LWD post gives a brief overview.

The approach

The approach draws on a social constructional treatment of knowledge generation and validity testing. In its initial use, it was offered to business executives to assist in their evaluation of leadership texts. In this post, it illustrates a way of simplifying the epistemology offered on doctoral courses in business and the social sciences. In its earlier application, executive MBA students are encouraged to study emerging leadership news stories, deriving a conceptual map from each. This ‘map reading’, like any life skill, improves with active and regular practice. ‘Map-testing’ includes processes found in research methods courses for investigating the reliability of the information and its validity. These two processes feed into the third, in which the derived and tested maps of a story are examined and compared with the personal map of the student. This process permits personal and experiential learning. Termed ‘map making’ this is the revised map of the student beliefs about leadership for personal reflection and class discussion.

Beyond the basic system A range of additional procedures are introduced to support the basic system. These include a search for dilemmas as significant hard-to-resolve decisions confronting the actors in the stories, these include the personal dilemmas for the student (‘the most important leader you study is yourself’).

Extending the process to doctoral research The process offers possibilities for modification for direct application in research studies even at the level of doctoral investigations. A workshop opportunity has arisen which will be reported here in a future post.

Update for Doctoral students The brief for the doctoral workshop was The Evolution of Leadership and Management and its links with Theories of Organisation: Bringing it all together. The syllabus indicated that the workshop follows the student’s journey through different perspectives on organisation and management theory (modernism, scientific management & Bureaucracy); neo-modernism (human relations and culture management); critical perspectives; postmodernist organisation theory). Students were advised to revise these topics to be prepared for discussion at the workshop.

Further updates

Further updates will report on the workshop and add discussion points from subscribers.

October 24th 2014

An illustration of the mapping approach applied to a leadership text which asks the question ‘are managers sacked for breaking the rules and leaders sacked for not breaking them?’

November 1st, 2014

Bridging the gap between the empirical and the social

One substantial difficulty for doctoral students is the gulf between the methods of enquiry in the empirical sciences and the social sciences. The former retains the methodology of the dominant rational model. This perspective is one I acquired in my schooldays and have retained as a technical manager trained to examine technical and economic problems through the methodology of scientific inquiry.

My attraction to a second approach involving the methodology of the social sciences grew, as I became familiar with the ideas of the social construction of reality. Nevertheless, I felt that moving completely from a scientific to a social scientific approach was likely to be switching from one horn of a dilemma to another.

Two authors helped me find a way of bridging the gap

To be continued


Richard Branson offers staff autonomy over vacation times and duration. Simples?

October 3, 2014


Richard Branson has announced a revolutionary self-managed policy for his personal staff. At first sight it seems a step towards the idealistic dream of worker autonomy and self-managed work groups. So let’s look a little more closely at the emerging story

This week [september 24th, 2014], Richard Branson was reported as announcing a new policy for his 170 personal staff. They are to have full rights to setting vacations ['holidays' or 'leave periods' in British vernacular].

Empowerment

‘Empowerment’ of workers has been a theme in OB courses and popular leadership writing for a few decades. This seems to be a further example, with the added weight provided by the authority of Richard Branson.

The basic principle is easy to grasp. The notion has libertarian and emancipatory aspects to it. So what’s not to like about it? And why have such initiatives been the target of Critical Theorists who have tended to dismiss it as a managerial fad?

Behind the headlines

Branson hopes the plan will be rolled out to subsidiary divisions. He has been reported as being influenced by his daughter who told him of a similar scheme at Netflix. The back story begins to take shape.

As one admiring report put it, Billionaire Richard Branson may be the coolest boss ever.

Two ‘maps’ of the story

One perspective is to interpret the story as an example of subtle exercise of power masquerading as enlightened leadership. The scheme is at present on offer to the 170 personal staff of Richard Branson. In his own words, the workers have obligations to act in the corporate interest so as not to damage the company or theirs own careers. The benevolence conceals the power structure on organizational life. The majority of employees are not directly influenced.

Another perspective is to consider Branson to be an authentic leader whose moral compass is towards a happy and autonomous work force. He avoids the dilemma of enforcing democracy by inviting change rather ordering it. He shares a generally non-coercive style with some of the most successful modern entrepreneurs such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who have built creative organizations

Oh, and one more thing …

The story breaks as the engaging fun-loving Branson is launching his new book. The Virgin Way: Everything I know about leadership.

Simples?


Boris Johnson’s speech to the Conservative Conference raises morale

October 1, 2014

It is widely reported that Boris Johnson is positioning himself to become the next leader of the Conservative Party and then Prime Minister. His Conference speech illustrates why.

His speeches are coded messages. They are also irresistibly witty. Today [September 30th 2014] he addressed the Conservative Party annual conference. You can see a report of the speech here.

On the eve of the Conference, UKIP announced the defection of a Conservative MP Mark Reckless to its Party. Boris brushed aside this near-crisis PR story with a humorous nautical riff about throwing the Kippers overboard along with [Alex] Salmond.

Boris banishes bad thoughts

The assembled Party activists roared their approval. Boris had banished bad thoughts. Wit had magicked away melancholia.

Compulsive watching

It was compulsive watching. Like any great performer, he succeeded in captivating his audience. I suspended disbelief. I warmed to Boris’ World.

The world beyond Boris

But I didn’t believe a word in a world beyond Boris. Particularly when he outlined why there was the only one man to lead in Europe. He was building up to saying that man was David Cameron. And he did, with a touch of irony suggesting that his words are funny and charming and not to be taken literally.

And I did find his words funny and charming and not to be taken literally. And if I had been in the Hall, I would have smiled and clapped. Just like David Cameron did.

These are my leadership questions

Will Boris influence the influencers? Will The Conservative party decide it needs Boris as leader before the General Election? Will he be in good position to take over from David Cameron if the Conservatives lose the next election?

Perhaps. And if so, he will deploy an unmatched skill at making people forget their problems. Until, sadly, they have to re-emerge from Borisland.


Murray beats Janovicz in Beijing

September 30, 2014

Match report 30 Sept 2014

Live reporting

Andy Murray fights back to win a title in Szechuan last week, and moves on to Beijing. He risks an early exit to an opponent who beat him comfortably in their last encounter

Murray starts in hesitant mood against Janovicz. He doesn’t look a player capable of beating this opponent.

Murray loses first service game then goes 0-2. Then 0-3 to a second break.

Immediate and longer term problems

The immediate problem is a flatness to his play. Former coach Mark Petchey lists the problems. A tough schedule the previous week. 1500 mile trip to Beijing. Murray likes to feel his way into the game.

Longer term problems

Murray admitted in an interview that negativity had crept into his play. Maybe, he said not entirely convincingly, the win will help.

The match continues

First serve 30% . Overall play poor.

Breaks but then is broken. 1-4.murray has been broken three times in succession. Has one 1 out of 13 second serves. Can’t deal with J. ‘s drop shots.
1-5. Still hasn’t won a serve. J is winning without being tested. Murray wins a serve by J errors. 2-5 j takes eye drops.

M loses first point to another drop shot. But due to his own weak return. Still mostly winning points by J errors. Enough to win game.
‘He carried a bit of momentum forward.’ Petchey. Gets two first serves in. Back to 5-4.

‘He’s got some momentum’.

Tighter game. Murray breaks again. Wins serve. M playing better

Murray reaches tie break. Gets to 5-5. 6-6 7-7 8-8 9-9 11-9 J wins tie break
Murray could have been more aggressive

Second set

J. wins serve 1-0

Games closer. J still the more aggressive. Neither player precise. 2-2 3-3 4-4 M still too timid in rallies.

Murray breaks. 5-4 Both players played nervous game. And serves out

1 set all

First games follow similar pattern. Murray little less nervous than before?
1-1

Murray breaks. And then holds serve 3-1 3-2

And 4-2

J drops a second serve. 5-2

Murray serves out and wins two sets to one

Was there a momentum swing? If so, how did it disappear as AM led in tie break and then lost tie break in first set?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,609 other followers