If you follow football (soccer) you’ll know that in the English Premier League, Liverpool Football Club’s beloved manager, Jurgen Klopp, recently announced his departure at the end of this season. While many fans were shocked by his decision, I found the way he explained his decision as elegant as the way he has led the Club throughout his tenure (since 2015). Although I’ve always participated directly in sports & enjoy watching various competitions, football was not popular where I grew up. What changed? It’s Klopp’s principled style of leadership combined with his infectious energy that can turn anyone into an avid football fan.
Make a connection human to human
You may say Klopp has ‘charisma’. Yes, perhaps, but it’s more than that. Klopp’s leadership style is steeped in humanity. Whatever the topic, whether it’s a player deciding to leave the club, or fans protesting about the increase in the cost of tickets, Klopp always takes the higher ground and reminds us that we are each human. On the one hand, the fans are as important as those super famous footballers, and on the other those celebrity footballers are also human – they have families, they have emotions, and they make mistakes like the rest of us.
It’s no surprise then that the City of Liverpool has given him the keys to the city, making him an official Liverpudlian or ‘scouser’. Klopp has always had a commitment to the fans (demonstrated when he was manger of the German Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund before he joined Liverpool), but this connection to Liverpool is even deeper. After every game he walks over to the Liverpool fans and pounds his heart in thanks for their support. The feeling is mutual.
Live out your core values
Klopp’s announcement about his departure was as consistent as ever. His core values were clearly on display:
Respect - respect for the Club, its players, the coaching staff and the fans; he said one thing’s for sure, he’d never coach another Premier League team; his heart would always be in Liverpool
Truth - “The least thing I owe you is the TRUTH”, Klopp said. He didn’t want to wait until the end of the season and pretend that everything was okay. Truth was important in the context of respect as well
Teamwork - Klopp had two wishes: one was that people would accept his decision and two, that the rest of the season would not be about him, but rather about the team
Legacy - Klopp believes that he has set the team up for success; the platform for a successful team in the future is there; he also recognised that although as the manage he was the guy out front, the Club was made up of many individuals that contribute to that success
Purpose - it’s clear that Klopp devotes his time to things that he believes in. He says now it’s time to find a different purpose, and he will have to look for that
This is not just a ‘sports’ story – it’s a story about life; it’s a story about the power of leadership in all walks of life.
Know when it’s time to go
Klopp asked the Club, the fans, the players etc to understand that for him the time was right to leave. He became aware this summer that he did not have a limitless amount of energy. He wanted to focus on this season, and get the most out of this season, rather than simply go through the motions of being a manager (he did not want to be a ‘passenger’). His coaching style is based on energy - this is who he is. He goes ALL IN and that energy after 24 years of coaching football is no longer there. He sets high standards for himself and does not want to continue if he feels he can’t deliver to the standard he has set for himself.
Thank you Jurgen Klopp for your inspiration & showing what it means to be human in one of the most competitive and demanding industries!