Jürgen Klopp is the German manager of Liverpool Football Club. Klopp had become an almost mythical figure in Germany while managing Borussia Dortmund. He was close to the players and fans and celebrated goals as if he was the player that had scored. Having pushed Liverpool to extraordinary new heights — a 97 point season tally that was a club record, better than Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have ever amassed (although they were still 1 point behind eventual winners Manchester City) plus a Champions League Final appearance against Tottenham Hotspur— Klopp has taken the Merseyside team from nearly men to serious contenders. Here is what he has done:
1). He Set A Big Goal From Day One
In his first interview after joining the club in 2015, he said that his biggest goal was to change the mentality of the supporters — from doubters to believers. Most managers would have talked about buying top players and spending money to make more money. But Klopp knew how important the world famous Liverpool fans could be to the club. They would be the 12th man. By connecting with them, the team’s home stadium of Anfield would once again be feared by any visiting club. When the fans sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before kickoff, it has already unnerved many visiting opponents and sends chills down the spine of anyone watching.
2). He Connects With His Team Like No Other Manager
When Liverpool score, Klopp often celebrates as if he has scored or is celebrating with his team mates. When his players work hard and he has to substitute them, he always hugs them as they come off the pitch. He genuinely cares for them. So when he gets on the training ground with them and conducts routines that leave many exhausted and lying flat on the ground, they are willing to go through this again and again because they know their manager is there for them.
3). He Is Great With The Media
When Klopp is interviewed, he takes routinely boring questions and has fun with them. During an interview before a big Champions League game, instead of showing the pressure he was under, he had fun with a translator. A journalist asked him a long question and Klopp’s succinct reply was, “Gut”. The Spanish translator then converted the German question into English and at the end, Klopp mirrored his reply in English, “Good” followed by schoolboy like laughter. He also liked to pick on a German journalist who would ask random questions involving strange statistics. When Klopp gave a reply to the journalist saying he is well known for useless statistics, the translator translated it into Spanish. Klopp then told the journalist the whole world now knew about his useless statistics. Klopp has a way of being playful and his smile lights up the rule. You simply cannot take offense from a guy like this.
4). He Prepares His Players For Greatness
At the end of the 2018–2019 season on the final day, Liverpool were in with a chance of winning the English Premier League. Liverpool fans (like myself) had waited 29 years for this moment. When Manchester City pipped them to the post by 1 point, most managers would have done little else other than mourn. What Klopp did was special. He knew that if Liverpool had won, there would have been a victory parade and a lap of honor for the players and their family members. So to prepare them mentally for next year and the idea of winning the league, Klopp jubilantly led them around the pitch with their families anyway. It was an act of defiance, it prompted the fans to sing “We Shall Not Be Moved” and stirred something in them that said, they will be back next season even stronger than ever.
5). He Is Accountable For His Actions
He never blames an individual if the team loses or draws. He takes accountability and takes the pressure away from the players so they can focus on improving in the next game. His optimism is contagious so he always finds a way to take a bad result and position it as a learning exercise. He sees the big picture, plays the long game and realizes one game means little in the grand scheme of things.
Now Your Turn:
Are there any leaders you learn business lessons from? Answers and reasons in the comments please.