Leadership is a person’s ability to be a leader, a captain, an organiser – whatever you want to call it. I believe it depends on the character that a person has developed over time. It can be authoritarian or authoritative; it depends on what type of person you are. Something very important in relationships with other people, such as between employer and employees, is clarity. By this I mean you have to be true to yourself. For example, if you’re a relaxed and calm person, you obviously can’t implement an authoritarian form of leadership, and vice versa.
I’m a good listener. I like communicating with people while putting myself at the same level. I don’t want people to think I feel superior to them, nor do I want them to see me as inferior. The relationship must be based on the same level, especially with football players. I really like listening to them, because I think that everybody can contribute with their ideas. The coach must then be able to bring all these ideas together and convey them. ‘Conveying’ is the keyword: conveying your own ideas. It can’t be forced. The key to good communication is being on the same level, being authoritative instead of authoritarian. And, of course, respect.
My success as a player helped me get respect, no doubt about it. However, respect is something that you earn day by day: by being professional and consistent, by knowing how to communicate and listen, by knowing how to respect others and how to get them to respect you.
What needs to come to the fore for any coach is the quality of the players. A coach must be able to teach them to put their individual qualities at the service of the team. Every coach works hard to build a team, which is made up of individual people. You must be able to teach players that their individual and unique personalities have to be put at the service of the entire team. This is what makes the difference between a good player and a great one.
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The challenges, though, are very different now compared to 20 years ago, when there wasn’t such a big group to manage. Today, managing a group of 25 people is very difficult, because there are too many players who aren’t involved in each game. With a group of 25 players, 11 of them play, three can come on as substitutes, which makes 14 – so 11 of them are excluded. As a result, managing them all is much more challenging.
There are also many more members of staff now and the working methods have changed, so the job of a coach is constantly evolving. Now we work much less on the physical aspects and much more on the technical and tactical aspects. Therefore having great staff, who know how to deal with technology, is essential.
Before a game, I prefer to be alone. I don’t speak much with the players when they’re out on the pitch at the stadium beforehand. Only when the team enter the changing room a few minutes before kick-off do I make a speech, which is mainly concerned with motivation. Speeches depend a lot on the emotions you perceive in the changing room. If you see everyone a bit too relaxed before a game, you need to remind them about being focused and applying themselves. If you see there are too many nerves in the changing room, you need to try to release the tension a bit. No speech is written beforehand; it’s based on the situation in the changing room.
I try to speak to the group the day before, above all. I don’t have individual one-to-ones; I try to motivate the team as a whole. For me, each player must be told clearly what they need to do on the pitch. If they know what they need to do, I don’t believe they need to be worked up or calmed down anymore. This is what I try to do with the players: give them clear information on what they need to do on the pitch. There are no special secrets.