What makes a great sporting leader?

Sunday 19 October, 14.00 until 15.30, Hammerson Room, Barbican Contemporary Controversies

With the England cricket team experiencing a turbulent tour of Australia, culminating in a humiliating whitewash, and the problems of succession currently engulfing Manchester United, the issue of management and leadership in sport has been thrust into the spotlight. Is a great sporting leader born or made? What are the key factors for creating a football dynasty, whether it be Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United or Bill Shankly at Liverpool? And can a manager really make that much difference today at a time when money plays such a big role in sporting success?

Have the requirements of a great sporting leader changed with time? For instance, could a celebrated leader from the past such as Brian Clough succeed today while having to deal with the money, the egos, the politics and the pressures of modern football? Or can a great leader succeed in any circumstances?

Is a key component of a great leader the ability to accommodate and manage disruptive and difficult personalities, if they are vital to the success of the team? Or do great leaders need to exhibit a ruthlessness in the world of personnel and ego management? What makes up the winning mentality in 2014, and are there common ingredients to successful leadership, whether in sport, business or politics?

Listen to the debate:


Matthias Heitmann
freelance journalist; contributor, NovoArgumente; columnist, Schweizer Monat

Thais Portilho
journalist; campaigns and public affairs consultant

Luke Regan
research officer, The Sports Think Tank

Hilary Salt
actuary; founder, First Actuarial

Philip Walters
chair, Rising Stars (educational publisher), and the GL Education Group; Spurs season ticket holder; member of Middlesex County Cricket Club

Geoff Kidder
director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters

Produced by
Geoff Kidder director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters
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