A Conversation Between Sir Alex Ferguson And Sir Michael Moritz

“Looks like they’re all Arsenal fans this morning, Sir Alex.”

And with that they were off.

The inside-football conversation between two titans of their respective fields, Sir Michael Moritz, the head of Sequoia Capital, and Sir Alex Ferguson, the longtime manager of football powerhouse (soccer for the Stateside readers) Manchester United ranged across a variety of football managers (in different leagues) and advice on leadership.

For Ferguson, who, along with Moritz, has penned a book on the subject, the keys to the kingdom for a leader are consistency and avoiding complacency.

In the mellifluous tones of their respective homes (Scotland for Ferguson, Wales for Moritz) the two went on a tour of the football management field.

As Ferguson assessed managers from Mourinho to Neville he dropped a few pearls that can be applied to the world of business as readily as the cutthroat world of the English Premiere League.

“You have to win twice on Saturday. You have to win the game, and you have to win the press conference,” Ferguson says. “You have to give a message to your fans.”

I’d argue the same applies for executives. It’s not enough to execute well, but you have to tell that story to the world. And while that’s an easier thing to do when you’re winning, it’s almost more important when a company isn’t — or a team isn’t.

The ability to assess candidly a company’s performance — or a team’s — is a necessary skill and separates good executives from great ones. To face adversity directly and provide an honest accounting of what’s gone wrong and how to correct it, may be one of the most important skills an executive has.

Pontificatory palaver aside, an interesting discussion amongst two giants of their industry.

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