When Liverpool clinched the Premier League title with a win on June 25, my household was giddy. We are a family of sports fans, and we especially love baseball (Go, Red Sox!) and soccer. I’m a relative newbie to Liverpool, having cheered for them for the last five years. Having games resume over the last few weeks has been a welcome bit of excitement.
But it’s not just a distraction. All of my life, from little league to soccer mom, sports have taught me valuable lessons. Today, I wanted to look at the lessons I’m learning on and off the field from Liverpool. These lessons fall into three categories:
The Bleacher Report says Liverpool fans are the third-best in the Premier League, but I disagree. And so do a few celebrities. These loyal fans just waited 30 years for their first domestic championship. True, that pales in comparison to previous dry spells of my beloved Boston Red Sox or the long-suffering Chicago Cubs. But Liverpool fans have held out through a lot of ups and downs.
Remaining a rabid fan during losing and so-close-you-can-taste-it seasons is tough. These fans came together during the 1989 Hillsborough Tragedy. Their fight song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” is the embodiment of the Liverpool spirit of hope and togetherness. And while I’ve never been to the stadium in Anfield, I can feel the spirit of the 58,000 fans singing YNWA through the TV. Seeing them sing and sway and smile in the stands, you realize it’s more than sport. Liverpool fans are family.
Lessons off the field: The community you build in your professional life is just as critical. You might not be rallying around the 2020 Premier League champions (I just like writing that), but you are likely rallying around a higher purpose for your organization. As a team, you succeed together and celebrate. You sometimes fail together and learn and support. You work together through the hard times so you can truly appreciate the good times when they arrive.
Manager Jürgen Klopp’s leadership style is inspiring. In just four short years he’s brought four trophies to Anfield. From Day One, he laid out one big, hairy, audacious goal: to turn the mentality of the supporters “from doubters to believers.” And succeed he did.
He’s an accountable leader who never singles out players if they drop points. He takes responsibility. He gives players freedom and prioritizes building trusting relationships.
His media interviews and quotes are legendary. One of my favorites:
That’s what leadership is: have strong people around you with a better knowledge in different departments than yourself, don’t act like you know everything, be ready to admit, ‘I have no clue in the moment, give me a couple of minutes and then I will have a clue probably.'
In a recent master class, he outlined his leadership principles
- Every moment of pressure is an opportunity for greatness.
- Controlled failure: Losing leads to success.
- Ignite passion in your team.
- Put the team above everything.
- Invest in your team members and get the very best from individuals.
His life lessons, as told through the lens of Roger Bennet of Men in Blazers, illustrate just how authentic and relatable a leader he is.
Lessons off the field: As a leader, you set the tone. Is it built on trust? Are you setting a vision that transcends your team? Are you confident enough to surround yourself with people smarter than yourself? How can you take losses and turn them into wins? If you invest in your team and ignite their passions, you will work toward greatness.
No surprise – Liverpool uses data to drive advantage. Liverpool owner Fenway Sports Group acknowledges that it is competing with the deep pockets of fellow Premier League teams. If you can’t outspend them, you must outsmart them. Data is your competitive advantage. Through analysis, Fenway Sports Group found that pitch control was a secret ingredient to success. The organization also uses analytics for player profiling, recruitment and squad management.
Liverpool employs a team of researchers and statisticians to crunch numbers, including staff members with backgrounds in theoretical physics, astrophysics and philosophy. This variety of analytical viewpoints surely contributes to the team’s success. However, the team’s analysts aren’t the only ones using data science. Klopp incorporates data into his decision-making process. He is known for spending as much time off the field with his analytics team as coaching staff.
Lessons off the field: Spoiler alert: As the head of marketing at SAS, I believe in data. Add a splash of curiosity, and you have all the ingredients to make better decisions – for society and business. We have a team at SAS dedicated to sports analytics, but we also know that many sports teams are run like a small business – and data can help their business run more smoothly and profitably. Often, analytics techniques used in one industry can transfer to another. Retailers and health care providers have been known to use in-game sports analytics techniques to improve their customer flow. Manufacturers can learn computer vision techniques from our sports customers too. Data is everywhere. You just have to apply your curiosity to find the answers.Planning for sports after lockdown