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Secrets of



How do you become a great leader?

September 2020

4 mins 50 secs


Martin: Great to see you Kevin. It’s been four or five months since we’ve last seen each other. I know you’ve missed me because it’s mentioned every time we’ve spoken on the phone and I’ve missed you so much.

It’s great to welcome a BigChange ambassador, but you’ve been much more than an ambassador, you’ve been helping and coaching me over the last four months, over the phone, on leadership. I really want to be the best leader and I’ve learnt so much from you over the period of time we’ve been working together. But I want to ask. How did you become a great leader?

Kevin: Depends who you talk to.

Martin: Who helped you, who coached you?

Kevin: They say you’re a born leader. I think, like a lot of sayings, there’s actually a lot more to it. For me, I learnt at a very young age from my father. He said “Son you go and learn from him” – and he might send me to work at the market stall in Doncaster where I was born. A lot of kids would think what can you learn at a market stall in Doncaster? I tell you, you meet the world there – and I took that with me.

When I started working at Scunthorpe United – my first professional club – with a manager called Ron Ashman, his strength was communication. Everybody felt they knew where they stood with him. Though he wasn’t great when we lost. He was a great winner but when we lost the whole world went down. So I learnt to try not to be like that when you lose a game.

Of course, I then had the pleasure of working with managers like Sir Alf Ramsey for my first two England caps. Going into that I thought, this man won the World Cup in ‘66 for England, he was way ahead of his time, what did he have? He had this air about him and confidence, without being arrogant, that he just knew what he was doing. So you felt comfortable following him.

You should be picking up little tips with everybody. Bill Shankly [Liverpool FC Manager] would say “Guys in this game, you are here for the fans out there”. You’d realise that it’s not just about playing on the pitch – you are part of a community. He took the game and said “first and foremost you’re part of the Liverpool community, then you play for Liverpool FC”.

I’d go out with the senior players when I first got there, visiting hospitals and homes. As just a 19 year old kid, I was getting taught by the older players about how to communicate with kids and fans – which was sometimes rough.

I learnt from all the people I ever met. From a very young age, I found that everyone comes into your life for a reason. Even when you meet someone who’s very arrogant and rude, and it shocks you, think ‘what have they done wrong?’ You learn how not to communicate, how not to treat people. So even though it’s a bad experience, take the lesson from it. When you do that often enough, it becomes part of you.

I suddenly found myself captain of England and it’s not just calling the coin toss. When things aren’t going right in the 90 minutes you’re on the field, you’re the manager out there. You have to take responsibility and give directions.

You learn from everybody and it’s the same for business.



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