An Emotional Intelligence Lesson

imageThere is an emotional intelligence lesson going on in London and I doubt if many management gurus are watching it. Most who follow football would be aware of it, when I mention the names of Chelsea, Mourinho and Stamford Bridge.

For the uninitiated. Jose Mourinho, the most successful manager in the last decade, has won European Cups and League Championships with more clubs than anyone in football history. His football sense is exceptional, but many have tactical nous. It is his strategic sense, the ability to create a vision and teams which makes him exceptional. He will create a siege mentality, so players bind into a team. Coupled with their football skills, team bonding drives the purpose and brings trophies. Mourinho has won European Championships with Porto, Inter-Milan and league championships with Porto, Chelsea, Inter-Milan and Real Madrid. Not to forget the local cups he has won. He has ended up winning 22 trophies in an eleven year period.

This is obviously a Rolls-Royce of a manager, with a very aggressive confrontational management style, but his teams are at one with him.

So, when Chelsea (English Champions) stepped into this season, with a couple of additions to the squad, they came as favourites. Somewhere, unbeknownst, things were not quite right. My own inference is that the head was not quite in place. Arrogance begets strange children.

The team preparation was not adequate. I think they fell into a trap of complacency. So pre-season being inadequate, they came into the season not at the top of their game. In modern day sports, the difference between dominant professionals and very good ones is minuscule. It meant a bad start.

From then on, human psyche took over. An early reverse, meant that Mourinho and team were under stress. They were angry that they were not living up to their reputation. Mourinho knows one style only. Its confrontational and generally directed at the press, referees and sometimes other teams. Here bad results meant, he was looking for rationale. He turned inwards to the peripherals of his team – theoretically where least damage happens. A very strange and largely irrelevant storm blew up against Dr Eva Carneiro, the team doctor. Since this is sub-judice, one cannot comment on it. Suffice to say, it had little to do with football and coupled with a gleeful media, it became a storm, which has now ended up in the courts.

What it did to the heads of the players is the more relevant issue. Managing a team, football or otherwise is a very delicate balance. The leader has to lead. The moment a team realises that a leader is not in control, it sheds doubt on his/her leadership. Mourinho, I think lost control of the situation immediately. The moment you lose control, the team is gone. The common enemy, common purpose, the feeling of belonging begin to unravel. The results showed it. They were not disastrous, but were decidedly mediocre.

Next step came the players. They start with a mind set, ‘we are good players and at the moment the team is a problem’. As the results decline, supporters become agitated and the press target them, personal confidence slides. After a while, even the players start losing confidence and perform sub-optimally. This eventually resulted in a couple of bad results and Chelsea now hover right above the relegation zone.

We are now at a stage where the atmosphere within must have come apart. Typically it results in a blame game and descends into politics. Sure enough! With Eden Hazard (rather dismissively) going off injured in the last defeat against Leicester, Mourinho has now gone on record as feeling betrayed by his players. This is a man, whose basic tenet of management has been that his players are great and that he is a wall of protection in front of them against the big bad world out there. Now just imagine the feelings of his players. They have lost their protector, leader and friend. They have been cut loose to face the world.

At this stage one of two things happen. Mourinho has either taken a risk and hopes to shock his players back into togetherness or his ego is now in justification mode – ie I am not responsible for this mess. It is the stage where rationality has now gone out of the door, with the ratcheting up of risky actions. I would be surprised if the owner Abramovic does not step into action by the New Year. So either way, the status quo is about to change. Chelsea go up suddenly or Mourinho goes out.

This is a salutary case study of management. The whole facet of it. An exceptional system, leading to exceptional success. Complaisance due to over confidence, leading to temporary decline, an unthought reaction, an unravelling of the team spirit, an implosion inwards and now arbitrary decision making. It is now in the realms of luck.

* picture is from


About sarfarazar
I have been lucky! A long career with large scale organisations and some acclaim. Also, took time off to write, mentor and do some education and social development projects. I continue to mentor and help younger people in life. Inshallah, hope to write on various subjects in my blog.

2 Responses to An Emotional Intelligence Lesson

  1. sarfarazar says:

    Well the end came sooner than one thought…Jose Mourinho sacked a couple of hours ago… 😦

  2. Khurram says:

    Hope you write about Sir Alex some day 🙂 Don’t think there is anyone better at football management than him…

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