Jose Mourinho, famously nicknamed ‘The Special One,’ was recently sacked as Chelsea Football Club’s Manager; just seven months after leading the club to their third Premier League title. His departure is the consequence of Chelsea’s disappointing start to the 2015/16 Premier League campaign, where they currently lie 16th in the table having lost 9 out of their 17 games thus far.
And so, questions begin to surface; where has it gone wrong for Mourinho? How has one of the greatest Managers of all time, renowned for his leadership abilities, led the team to such a downfall so soon after being at the top? Experts have hinted at a few underlying factors: a shorter pre-season, failure to refresh the squad with new additions and noticeably, being unable to get the best out of his key players. However, we feel that the answers underpinning all of this could have something to do with the psychological issue of derailment.
What is leadership derailment?
Derailment occurs when leaders overplay their positive characteristics to the extent where they become weaknesses. Performers hence plateau at a lower level than expected, and in some circumstances, may leave their position altogether. Ultimately, derailed leaders try to do too much of what they perceive to be a good thing and avoid developmental opportunities as a result, so-much-so that it counteracts their abilities.
When do leaders derail?
Leaders are particularly susceptible to derailment when making the transition from one role to another. As leaders progress through their career, their role will likely fluctuate in terms of complexity, levels of responsibility, and the types of communication required. Thus, it is imperative that they know how to adapt, as well as being able to ‘let go’ of some of the behaviours that have defined their performances to date.
We’ve heard the phrase ‘third season syndrome’ spoken about in the case of Jose Mourinho, where he seems to struggle to ascertain the same affiliation from his players as in previous seasons. Although his position as a Manager has remained the same, could it be that an inability to transition from season-to-season, has ultimately led to him derailing?
What are the characteristics of a derailed leader?
Lane4's research highlights that one of the characteristics of a derailed leader is micromanaging; essentially ‘meddling in the work of others’. This is where the leader continually oversees and tells others how to do their jobs, rather than trusting them to work independently. This can soon lead to disengagement, as staff feel that they have little control over how they work. Is this applicable to Mourinho?
During the first match of the season, he publicly humiliated Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro with a heated outburst, after she ran onto the pitch to treat an injured player whom he believed to have been okay. In later interviews. he claimed that Carneiro was impulsive and naive - controversial statements for a man of his calibre. Carneiro left her post as the team’s doctor shortly after the affair and has gone on to take legal action against Mourinho and Chelsea.
This set the tone for Mourinho regularly being in confrontation with authority. Following Chelsea’s match against Southampton, he received a one-match stadium ban and a fine of £50,000, after claiming that referees were afraid to award his side penalties. He then portrayed similar derogatory behaviour towards referee Jon Moss, after Chelsea’s match against West Ham later on in the month; receiving yet another hefty fine. Is this a further indicator of a derailed leader?
Lane4’s research into fixed mind-sets would suggest so. When leaders have a fixed mind-set about performance, they are more likely to attribute failures to factors beyond their control, for example luck. This sounds all too familiar for Mourinho, who in his latest outburst, ironically felt that his players had “betrayed him”, following the club’s defeat to Leicester City.
In the case of Mourinho, it is arguable that he has in fact derailed. Failing to make a successful transition from season-to-season, micromanaging his support staff and having a fixed mind-set about performances, all act as evidence of this. His derailed behaviour has arguably had a knock-on effect on his players and their engagement levels; which may have been reinforced by a series of below-par performances that, unfortunately, have led to the Manager’s departure.
What should Mourinho do differently in the future? Have you witnessed derailment in your organisation? Please get in touch and let us know your stories and opinions.
BBC Sport, 2015. Jose Mourinho stands by criticism of Eva Carneiro and Fearn. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/33931547
BBC Sport, 2015. Jose Mourinho: Chelsea boss gets stadium ban and fine. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/34705246
Sky Sports, 2015. Eva Carneiro takes legal action against Jose Mourinho. Available from: http://www.skysports.com/football/news/11668/10053165/eva-carneiro-takes-legal-action-against-jose-Mourinho
Sky Sports, 2015. Jose Mourninho’s £50,000 fine and suspended stadium ban explained. Available from: http://www.skysports.com/football/news/15116/10030436/why-was-jose-mourinho-charged-with-misconduct-y-the-fa