What Managers Can Learn From Leicester City’s Claudio Ranieri

03 May 2016 -


Starting the season as 5,000-1 underdogs, Leicester City have completed one of the most miraculous and captivating stories in the history of world sport by winning the English Premier League title. But what can managers learn from Ranieri’s title winning leadership?

Jermaine Haughton

Leicester City's first top-flight championship in their 132-year history was sealed following Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Monday night, meaning their seven-point lead at the top could not be beaten with two games left to play.

A chi vuole, non mancano modi, or as the English translation states, ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ is a proverb that has underlined the tremendous team spirit and hard work shown by Leicester City over the last eight months.

Almost a year ago, the football club, then-managed by Nigel Pearson, narrowly avoided relegation from the top flight despite being bottom of the league for much of the season. Turn the clock back seven years, and the Foxes were languishing in the third tier of English football for the first time in their history.

Winning the title is even more unlikely considering their considerable disadvantaged financial position compared to rivals such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool - with the first two sides spending more on players in the last two seasons than Leicester have in their entire history.

How, then, did they manage to achieve such a great feat?

The Ranieri Effect

The emergence of former non-league player Jamie Vardy and his goalscoring exploits, the wizardry and skill of Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez and the powerful presence of former journeyman defender Wes Morgan were all masterminded by Ranieri and his coaching staff.

Nicknamed “the bridesmaid” in Italy for continually failing to win major league titles – finishing second with Chelsea, Roma and Monaco in his managerial career - the 64-year-old’s appointment as Leicester boss last July was met with huge pessimism from the media and football fans.

Despite this, Ranieri’s successful tenure at Leicester City has highlighted three specific managerial attributes that all leaders can learn from.

Thick-skin is the first.

In the summer, journalists were quick to write off City, with 14 of The Sun's reporters backing the Foxes to go down along with another nine from the Daily Mail and the BBC's chief football reporter, Phil McNulty, just to mention a few.

While other managers (namely, former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho) became flustered, Ranieri remained resilient and refused to the let the criticism affect his management of the team.

The second major feature of Ranieri’s managerial skill is his unerring calmness under pressure. The Italian has proved tactful in keeping his players focused and humble by playing down expectations.

When his side entered 2016 in second place in the table, Ranieri maintained that the goal for his team was to get to the magical “40 points” mark and avoid relegation. When Leicester beat Watford, Newcastle and Crystal Palace each by a 1-0 scoreline in March to move eight points clear at the top, Ranieri admitted that his team were aiming to finish in the Premier League’s top four, securing a place in next season’s Champions League.

Not until just one win was required to win the title, before Leicester visited Manchester United this weekend, did Ranieri admit the league was in touching distance.

But tt the heart of Leicester’s success has been Ranieri’s innovation in adapting his team to defeat all the obstacles they were faced with this season.

Showing a willingness to change the formation of his team, and work tirelessly on defensive drills, Ranieri and his coaching team have turned the side from one leaking goals in the first ten games of the season to being clean-sheet masters by its finish.

Ranieri has also adapted his training to help keep his stars feeling fresh and injury-free, as evidenced by him being able to rely heavily on the same 13-14 players throughout the last 36 games.

He even opted to give his players “at least” two days off a week in a strategy aimed at countering the relentless pace of English football.

He said: "My boys are training a lot, but not too many times. In England the game is always high intensity and wipes people out. They need more time to recover. We play on Saturdays and then Sunday is free for everyone. We resume on Monday with light training, the way they do it in Italy.”

Here are five other unconventional, but highly successful, bosses:

Lawrence Ellison - Oracle

A university dropout who re-mortgaged his house to keep his fledgling start up Oracle alive, Lawrence Ellison is as unorthodox a business leader as they come.

Oracle’s fortunes initially grew after Ellison stumbled across IBM's research paper on the programming language SQL in the 1980s and chose to tailor his firm’s software to be run on any computer. This move enabled Oracle to profit in later years when IBM - the leading computer hardware firm of the day - released its SQL supported products in 1981.

By the time Ellison stepped down as CEO in 2014, Oracle was a multi-billion pound corporation, rated as the second-largest software maker by revenue, after Microsoft.

Arianna Huffington - Huffington Post

Before Arianna Huffington became the go-to name in online publishing, the author and media mogul had to overcome a number of failures, including having her writing endeavours dented when her ideas were rejected by three dozen major publishers.

Her next venture was Arianna Online, which grew out of her syndicated newspaper columns, but that failed to gain traction. Then in 2005, with Kenneth Lerer, Jonah Peretti, and Andrew Breitbart, she set up the Huffington Post, as a platform for thousands of bloggers.

Providing unique opinion pieces on a variety of topics, some uncovered by traditional media, and covering current affairs, she eventually sold the website to AOL for $315million (£215million) in 2011.

Ben Huh - I Can Haz Cheezburger

After his first start up software analytics firm Raydium fell foul to the dotcom crash in the early 2000s, Huh showed reliance and faith in the digital and online marketplace by deciding to buy blog I Can Haz Cheezburger six years later, starting off his building of a funny-blog empire.

The blog network now receives 25 million unique visitors and half a billion page views per month, and has raised more than $32 million (£21.87 million) to jumpstart a platform that will allow anyone to create memes.

Dan Hesse - Sprint

Telecommunications firm Sprint were in freefall in 2007, when Dan Hesse became the company chief executive. Reporting losses of $29.6billion (£20.23 billion ) and after a difficult merger with Nextel Communications, Sprint was ranked bottom for customer satisfaction in the US.

Alongside a series of brand and marketing initiatives including the "Simply Everything" rate plan in 2008, Hesse led the brave acquisition of Virgin Mobile USA – moving it into the prepaid market.

Today, Hesse’s leadership of the company has led to positive subscriber growth after initially losing 5.1 million subscribers in 2008, and reported revenue of $35.3 billion (£24.13billion) in 2012.

Steve Jobs - Apple

Probably the most famous unconventional leader of all, Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the company he had co-founded more than two decades previous, in 1996 to serve as interim CEO when the company was floundering and stock prices had plummeted.

Jobs dramatically changed the focus of the company, reducing the 350 projects Apple had in development to 10, before providing the impetus and brains behind game-changing mobile software, the iMac, the iPod, iTunes and the iPhone.

By the time of his death in 2011, Jobs’ had led Apple’s stock to rise by more than 9,000%.

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