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There are indefinite ways to climb a mountain. Yet, there are only a few perfect trails on the way to the top. EI4Q presents short portraits on leaders who made an impact.

Leaders often have an exceptional insight into human potential and its impact on achieving team goals. 

The following article highlights the football manager Pep Guardiola, currently coaching Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola.

The task of a football manager is to form a strong team thereby enabling players to harness and improve their capabilities. 

Author: Matthias Maucher

The Person: innovative and emotional.

As a manager and creative leader of FC Barcelona, Josep Guardiola achieved outstanding results. His team won 14 titles and dominated world football for four years. His football philosophy has inspired clubs all over the world.

Pep Guardiola radically transformed the team's interaction, thereby proving his extraordinary ability to rebuild and improve an existing team. His leadership style shows a certain proximity to the one developed by iconic NBA Manager Phil Jackson (Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers).

Johann Cruyff certainly was a strong inspiration for Pep Guardiola's management style and team philosophy. From a technical point of view, he successfully adapted Cruyff's principles by combining them with a more aggressive stile and acute spatial awareness with an absolute focus on ball retention. Such, Pep Guardiola expands on Cruyff's approach with his own brand of emotionally-charged people-focus. He has stated: 

"My knowledge is also inherited,

  it is not entirely mine,

  it belongs to all the coaches I have had in the past,

  some more than others, obviously,

  but all of them have thought me something."

Pep Guardiola's innovative trait as a football coach is the combination of empathic leadership with an irrevocable focus on the team's performance. For example, building a team that is capable of dominating and adapting to each possible situation is considered more important than the ultimate focus on efficiency in terms of shooting goals. Team and talent management are key traits of Pep Guardiola's training concept and management philosophy. His leadership maxim can be described as harnessing the value of a team by maximizing the most important virtues of its members and making sure that everyone shares and adapts his actions to the common goal, not only as a player on the green, but also in terms of personal dedication.

The Trainer: Everything with the ball. Better interaction and persistence as a common prerequisite to winning.

Pep Guardiola perfected a football style dominated by passing on short distances, a constant switch between defense and attack. “The secret to football is to overload one side of the pitch, then switch the play and score from the other side" he states. What was key to implement that system, besides his conceptional design? One major element was to constantly train a set of many different ball combinations. In doing so, the players learned to closely and flexibly interact as a team on the field. Also, training those combinations allowed each team member to develop and improve in his own role. Everyone learned to be aware how his single task contributed to the teams' success. The outstanding level of Barca's and Munich's football performance proved that the team also understood how to adopt those training experiences to unpredictable situations in football matches.

The Leader: Analysis, open mindset combined with a strong focus on people and team performance.

As a people-oriented coach, Pep Guardiola not only considers the football talent of each player but also takes into account the personality of each team member and their ability to adapt to the above mentioned teams' goal. Guardiola has stated: "I am not dealing with footballers, I am dealing with people. They have fears and worry about failing and making fools of themselves in front of 80,000 people. I have to make them see that without each other, they are nothing". This quote reveals a key trait in Pep Guardiola leadership principles. He actively works with and bases his recipe for success on both, the individual player and also the integrated efforts of the team. 

Pep Guardiola's strong focus on people and their impact on the team's performance also shows up in Guillem Balagues' book ‘Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning’. When Pep Guardiola started coaching the Barcelona's players, some acted more like hollywood stars than as members of a football team. “He [Pep] realised very early on that his job consisted of looking after these small bubbles of isolation, caressing the egos of his pupils and constantly directing their intentions and efforts to the benefit of the group”. Pep Guardiola's analysis of the English football player Peter Crouch gets to the heart of his team and talent management approach: “He [Crouch] knows what he’s doing, both with the head and feet. One of his best virtues is his link-up play. He knows he isn’t just there for crosses into the box, he knows how to keep the play flowing. He gets the ball 1,000 times in the air and always keeps it. It seems simple but few strikers can and know how to do it. There are strikers who don’t link up with others, and there are strikers that think their game is different to others, but then you’ll have a stretched team. England has Crouch.”


For more insight on how to transform an existing business team, please see below.



1) Guillem Balague: Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning.

2) Guillem Balague: Pep Guardiola: Die Biographie.


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