Leadership Lessons From Jose Mourinho

Black Day For the Beautiful Game

I never used too follow soccer until 3 years ago. The person who cultivated my interest in soccer was Jose Mourinho. Until last week he was the Coach/Manager of Chelsea Football Club in the English Premier League. I was gutted when I woke up to the news that Jose Mourinho had left Chelsea by ‘mutual consent’ – whatever that meant. For all his abrasive character, arrogance and cockiness the man had special special qualities. The international media was unanimous in its recognition of the inspired leadership of Jose Mourinho. His news dominated both the front and back pages of all British tabloids. Even British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had to issue a statement to salute Jose. He had this to say about Jose “….Mourinho has a fantastic record of success. He’s made a significant contribution to British football in a short period of time and he’s also one of the great characters of the game.” The eulogies can only be compared to the outpouring of sympathies after the death of Princess Diana. Such was the loss the British soccer fraternity felt when Jose left. Friend and foe alike including – Ferguson even Wenger who had some real negative encounters with Jose expressed their deep sense of loss. What life lessons can we learn from Jose Mourinho?

Lesson 1 – The Special One

Jose Mourinho never played soccer competitively. The closest he came to soccer was when he worked as Bryan Robson’s interpreter at Barcelona. With a knack for detail and a great work ethic he soon established himself as a key member of the Barcelona coaching staff. He was to later to become the coach of Porto Football Club, Portugal. He guided Porto to win the UEFA Champions League (the crème de la crème of all football Cups in the world). Porto was a team of average players who had no reputation. This is what made Jose “The Special One”. When he came to Chelsea he boldly proclaimed that he was “The Special One”. Call it arrogance, I call it self confidence. In his first season at Chelsea, he led a team of hitherto average players to their first Barclays Premiership League cup. Chelsea had not won it for FIFTY years. He did this back to back. In 3 years he won 6 trophies, no mean fit in the high octane English premiership. It is important not to be apologetic about who we are and what we can achieve. Your playing small does not serve the world. Who are you not to be great? You are great because you were created by a great God. Jose rocked the Premiership and raised the bar just by declaring himself – “The Special One”. You need to speak and declare things into your life – Rainmaker, Powerhouse, Creator of Economic Opportunity (C.E.O), Mighty Man, Woman of Substance etc. And begin to act like one too!

Lesson 2 – Love Your People

The day Comrade Jose went to bid farewell to his players on Thursday 20th of September, there was not a single dry eye amongst his 23 strong squad. He knew them all including their wives and children and mentioned each one during the 3 hour farewell. He even spoke to Alex and Bellett (they are Brazilian) in Portuguese to just show the extent of rapport he had with them. He hugged them, spoke to each one individually. They were a regimented force together. There was such a spirit of camaraderie in the Chelsea dressing room. The players would lay their lives for Jose on the pitch (John Terry, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba have played for long spells through a pain barrier (injection). The fans adored and worshipped Jose and they demonstrated it openly. Jose had great rapport with his players and the fans alike. He was jealous of his squad, and would shield them from the press by hogging the limelight as a diversionary tactic. This would leave the squad to do their talking with just their soccer on the pitch.

Lesson 3 – Develop Your Team

To make a great difference in life you need to grow leaders. Leaders are brokers of gifts. You can not be a giant surrounded by midgets. When Jose arrived at Chelsea there were no stars – he created them. John Terry and Frank Lampard were good players; he turned them into world class players. Joe Cole was a show pony, playing step up and shoe shine piano soccer, but today is a complete player. Didier Drogba has become pure class after struggling in the first season…he banged in 33 goals last season. He has become a legend at least for Chelsea fans and for Africa. No less than 5 Chelsea players are Captains of their national team and in the main it is all down to Jose – John Terry (England), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Peter Cech (Czech Republic), Michael Ballack (Germany), Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine). Leadership is about creating something out of nothing. It is about creating somebody out of a nobody. This is what makes Jose , the “Special One”

Lesson 4 – Stand Like A Rock

Chelsea is owned by Russian Jewish billionaire, Roman Abramovich. Roman has invested 500 million pounds into Chelsea since he bought it in 2003. His business acumen does not however extend to the soccer domain. Against Mourinho’s philosophy of not buying big name players, Roman went ahead and bought Michael Ballack and Shevchenko. The two were at the peak of their careers, and did not fit into Mourinho’s plans. Mourinho expressed his serious misgivings; he was vindicated because the two players have not lived up their reputations. Classical self fulfilling prophecy? Maybe not. He steadfastly resisted any attempts to interfere in the team affairs by the powerful club owner. He even dared Roman to sack him. Not even the fear of losing his job deterred him from standing for what he believed. In matters of conscience stand like a rock, in matters of fashion swim with the current. If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything. It is for that reason, Mourinho walked away from all the success he had built at Chelsea. It was not just the success; he also walked away from 5.2 million pounds per year salary. Roman also wanted to Chelsea to play ‘entertaining’ football like Arsenal, but Jose told him to buy Disneyland if he wanted a circus. He believed in efficient soccer which brought trophies.

Lesson 5 – Strong At Home, Strong At Work

Jose’s commitment to his wife Matilde, son and daughter is a matter of public record. Everytime things did not go well at soccer, he would always talk about going home to enjoy his family and watch wrestling. When he went to his children’s school, he wept as he bid the teachers and friends farewell on Friday 21st of September. This communicates a man with such a strong attachment to his family. I have no doubt he is great father as much as he is a great soccer manager. There is no pint in being successful everywhere else and failing to be a hero to your own family. Therefore the lesson is that lets all be our family’s most important example and hero before we succeed anywhere else. A strong family builds a strong support structure and ensures a stable and focused mind. When all is gone, what remains with you is the trophy cabinet and just your family far from the media and the soccer fans.

I realise I was not a Chelsea fan, but a Jose fan, even if he goes to coach relegated Leeds, I will go watch and the First Division. Mr Roman Abramovich can enjoy his circus. People follow the leader, not the money! Adios Senhor Roman. Viva Jose.


  1. That was a masterclass! Please what is English meaning of “Adios Senhor Roman”. ” Viva Jose”? I will be waiting impatiently to receiving your reply. Thanks a mega!

  2. Great article.
    You should catch up withe the latests from Mourinho. He just signed for Italian team Inter Milan. Inter just won the league title but the poor relations between the former coach Mancini and his players pushed the management to sack him. The first press-conference of Mourinho was totally in Italian which impressed the media. The whole conference was a show. The man was pictured as very confident and personally I’ve never seen so much funs from other Italian teams talk well about the Inter coach (which is unusual in Italy). You can get more info on Inter’s official web-site.

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