Martin: What do you think, as a leader, we should focus on most?
Kevin: Everyone’s different aren’t they? When we talk about leadership we probably all do it in slightly different ways. What I’m looking for, in the people who’ve led me in life, was honesty.
When they were talking to me about joining a club, I always looked at them and thought what are you really saying to me? Do you mean it? Trusting that a leader means what they’re saying to you is so important.
Similarly, respect – in the way that they tell you how it is. I never had a problem with a manager telling me off, telling me ‘I never want to see you do that again’.
Martin: I feel the same, I’ve got a team of 170. Having the ability to talk to people at different levels – walking the shop floor, understanding people, finding out how you can help them – all of it is needed to build a great business. You can’t do that without the ability to really work as a team.
Kevin: And of course when you say the team, that means everybody. With football for example, we’ve got 30 players, but we’ve got a whole raft of people who come in everyday to work just for those 30 players. It’s important to make the players understand that these people command respect as well. Whether it’s the fitness coaches, nutritionists or the psychologists – a role that’s really come along in the last ten years.
Make them realise that when they go out to play they are representing all of these people and if they lose even the guy who’s carrying the kit and looking after the boots is as disappointed as they are. When you get that mentality, where everyone is rowing the boat the same way, you’ve got a chance at success. If you haven’t got everyone together singing from the same hymn sheet, in football or business, you find cracks.
Martin: It’s funny you say that. We always applaud the sales people when they get an order; but someone rightly pointed out that without the people supporting the customer – making sure they’re happy and getting a great return on investment – they wouldn’t buy more. Now the whole team is recognised.
Kevin: I got the golden boot at a couple of clubs, but you don’t win it alone. Someone has to pass that ball so you can put it in the net. You’re completely right. That’s one of the key things in management, to make sure everyone who’s contributed feels that they’ve been recognised.
I remember with Bill Shankly, we used to have these big jumpers to make us sweat – that’s how we did it back in the day – it was like having someone on your back in training. After you’d finish they were so wet the lads would throw them on the dressing room floor. Well Bill came in one day and said to the captain “Don’t leave that on the floor. Jessie, who cleans the room, will have to come in and sort it all out. So hang it up.” It made us realise how something so natural makes more work for someone else. Bill was so on the ball with what it meant to play for a football club, as part of a team.
If we were doing well and picking up awards, appreciation of the team, of the players, of everyone was shown. It’s very important that a leader makes everyone feel part of a team. The great leaders do it naturally.