Alex Ferguson could teach politicians about real leadership – Kenny MacAskill

Former Aberdeen and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson may have a fearsome reputation but is very different in person, writes Kenny MacAskill.

Sir Alex Ferguson talks to Darren Fletcher as Manchester United play Chelsea in the 2007 FA Cup Final (Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s many years now since I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Alex Ferguson. Interviewing him as friend of Jimmy Reid, I ventured south with some trepidation, dressing-room tales of the “hairdryer” treatment going before him. But I came a way a fan and still rave about him to this day.

Now I’ve no doubt some of the tales were true and that on occasion he could blow. But that was far from his nature or normal demeanour.

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He knew how to get the best out of folk and what simply wouldn’t work with some. It was he who brought the best out of the mercurial Eric Cantona and you can only wonder what he might have been able to do with George Best.

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It’s for that reason that I am astounded at politicians who bully and harangue staff. Perhaps some controlled anger on occasion and about particular issues, but not routinely or as matter of course.

That simply breeds fear and animosity. The former resulting in inaction and the latter perhaps in actions that you wouldn’t wish.

Maybe it’s a power kick but I don’t think so. It’s much more to do with the personality of the individual. It’s shameful to treat people that way but whilst sexual misconduct’s rightly condemned bullying’s less so. Yet I know it’s prevalent in Holyrood as in Westminster and it’s gender neutral in its perpetrators.

What civil servants want isn’t hectoring but clear policy and direction, as well as the ability to listen.

That, not shouting, is what gets the best out of some fantastic talent.


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