Listen to the excited analysis of how little Leicester won the Premier League title on May 2 and certain themes keep appearing.

Claudio Ranieri? Really?’ was Gary Linekar’s reaction to the news of the appointment in 2015.

So, we have a team that was at odds of 5000-1 to win. (These odds can be found if you wish to place a bet on Katie Price to become Prime Minister).  We have a team that was consistent throughout the competition (and Leicester used fewer players than any other team).  We have a team that cost less than £30m. (Manchester City cost approx. £300m).  We have a team with a Twitter account following of 519,000 followers (Arsenal has 7.5 m)

How did it happen?

These descriptions of Ranieri’s style reverberate through the news reports.

  • “ he heaps praise on the team”
  • “ a sense he tended to lay the foundations for others to claim the credit”
  • “ a collective effort”
  • “ they worked their socks off for each other”
  • “ brilliant and canny recruitment”
  • “ it took a lot of heart”
  • “ with a typical good grace and a seemingly unshakeable bond with his players..”
  • “ Ranieri is charming and passionate and knowledgeable”
  • “ a warm, infectious personality”
  • “ press conferences started with a handshake for all in the room”
  • “ he kept things simple, lifting the pressure from his side..”
  • “ ..and the owners also invested heavily in the club’s infrastructure and player support..”

And Ranieri showed commitment to the team: he did nothing during the January transfer window, displaying complete trust in the existing squad.

Classic Leadership texts don’t contain many mentions of pizza together with the team, or of self-deprecation, do they?

There’s an old sport’s cliché that the ideal is a star team rather than a team of stars.

Creating that sense of team seems here to have involved charming human traits rather than superman leader qualities: create the best environment possible, work and play together, modestly and tenaciously work on the task in hand rather than on reputation, support each other, be light and humorous, and enjoy the work.

Perhaps it’s time to lose our obsession in business with ‘Leadership’.

We should start studying ‘Togethership’. It sounds more fun.


  1. Another great essay — and a good reminder of how a different style of leading can change — and improve — everything. Thanks Penny!


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