The Power of Passion
“Could a football manager really make that much of a difference?” That is what I asked myself as Liverpool thoroughly thrashed Southampton FC this past Wednesday by the score of 6-1. And no these are not American football teams. And yes I will try to make this sporty post bearable for you non-sporty readers.
6-1 is a rare score line in soccer. What is even rarer is Liverpool winning by a convincing margin, or Liverpool even winning at all. Under the previous manager, Brendan Rodgers, the lofty aims for a successful season seemed more like a childhood dream than an attainable ambition. Though Rodgers had varied results throughout his four year tenure as manager (a very successful 13/14 campaign), where the club was sitting just a few months ago was nowhere near his hopes and promises. The team was boorish to watch. Dull. And the results were even dull-er. Liverpool was bad.
Rodgers got fired. Insert German manager Jürgen Klopp, and in the blink of an eye we have seen Liverpool come to life. The 6-1 thumping against Southampton just further shows the contrast between the two eras (watch highlights here). Players formerly miring in stagnation have blossomed overnight. Confidence is high. The game is exciting. Football is fun again!
Klopp brings with him good tactics and sufficient experience. He also brings with him a very aggressive brand of football which implements the German (and fun to repeatedly say out loud) word: “gegenpress”. The idea here is that when the team is without the ball (playing defense), to find the right moment to win the ball back (by multiple players aggressively committing together) and to then transition with the ball to a quick and direct counter attack. Fitness is huge for Klopp—which makes sense because this style requires relentless running, especially without the ball.
But Klopp doesn’t just bring gegenpress. He does not just bring a distinct brand of football and a painted portrait of what he wants his team to look like. Klopp also brings passion. And his passion is contagious.
|Klopp with his signature celebration.|
Anyone who has watched Klopp on the sideline knows what I mean. He is jumping, shouting, making exaggerated gestures—and when his side scores he goes bonkers. But it is not just his body language that communicates his passion. It is the way he talks. What he does. Everything about him screams passion. But this passion is not some disconnected or isolated personality quirk; It stems from his conviction as a manager. Klopp believes very strongly in what he is doing: his method, his tactics, his ability, his players, and his organization. And it shows.
Dr. Albert Mohler in his book Conviction to Lead really keys on the importance of passion in leadership of any form. “When the mission is ambiguous and the beliefs of the organization are nebulous, passion dissipates quickly. On the other hand, leaders with passion transfer that passion to others. Like an infectious disease, passion spreads exponentially through the movement.” This is exactly what Jürgen Klopp has done to Liverpool. Passion trickles down to the struggling player and to the forsaken fan. It infects the organization as each individual buys in; and before you know what just happened, the entire football club has gone from bad to great.
That is the power of passion. Now passion alone does not make leaders effective--that much is clear. But leaders cannot be effective without passion.
Do you have passion? I do not mean a charismatic personality or a loud mouth. Your passion does not have to be communicated with shouting or fits of emotion. But it has to be there, and people have to see it there, or else your leadership will fail. Passion will inevitably flow from your deepest convictions. And if you believe in what you are doing enough, people will see it--and they will follow. Just like Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp.