Yesterday Jose Mourinho became the new coach of Real Madrid football club in Spain but last weekend he led the Italian club, Inter Milan, to win the European champions league trophy. This win cemented his status as one of the most successful football coaches in Europe. The 47 year old Portuguese coach, is a polarising figure; you either love him or hate him, but even his harshest critics can’t knock his accomplishments. I believe that there are several key factors responsible for his coaching success.
Self awareness: Mourinho initially wanted to be a successful football player but he quickly realised that he lacked the skills and temperament to become one. This led to the decision to pursue a great coaching career instead. He went on to university to get a degree in sports science and taught PE at secondary schools for three years before his big break.
Serendipity: Successful individuals usually get serendipitous breaks in their careers. We are defined by the decisions we make and the detours we take. Mourinho’s decision to become proficient in languages proved to be a career defining decision. He joined Bobby Robson’s coaching staff at Porto FC in Portugal not because of his coaching skills but because he was fluent in English. He was employed to be a translator for Robson who was English and needed a translator to communicate with the FC Porto football players. Robson would later take him to Spain (FC Barcelona) after he left Portugal because Mourinho also understood Spanish.
Mentoring: Mourinho has had one of the finest examples of coaching work experience in football before eventually launching out on his own. During an eight –year period, he worked closely with such successful coaches like Bobby Robson and Louis Van Gaal who helped shaped his coaching philosophy. He learnt the trade from the very best and this knowledge combined with his own natural talent has helped him surpass even his mentors’ achievements.
Confidence: Mourinho exudes self confidence which rubs off on his teams. They play with the confidence that they can beat any team with Mourinho’s tactics and formations. His confidence stems from the fact that he has a winning track record. Football players want to play for managers who have won championships. Mourinho has won league titles in three European countries where he has coached, as well as three major European championships. It is much easier to get people to follow you if you accomplished what they desire to or if you have been where they want to go or heading. They are more willing to submit to your leadership. It is much harder to get people to follow you on a leadership journey you have never travelled.
Coaching Philosophy: Mourinho believes that the collective team is greater than the individual superstar. His teams are so well drilled that each player puts the interest of the team above their own. One of his former players said that the way he talks to his players makes them feel very special and he has an amazing capacity to get the best from them. The first thing he does is to give his team a cause to fight for and his players go the extra mile for the cause. The cause is greater than the individual and those who are not for the cause will eventually be shipped out of the club.