The energy required from leaders, whether in the business sphere or outside, is not to be underestimated. If, as a leader, you are not leading the charge and setting the tone, it is likely that your organisation will experience some form of a slow down.
The perfect example of this came last week, when the football world was shocked by the sudden announcement that Jürgen Klopp, the charismatic German manager, will be leaving Liverpool FC at the end of the season. This came after eight-and-a-half years at the helm, winning seven trophies in the process.
Mr Klopp is well known in the sporting industry, particularly for his enthusiastic leadership and management style that is heavily focused on the well-being of his players. Throughout his established career, he has managed success after success, yet his greatest feat is arguably taking Liverpool from verging towards mediocrity in 2015, to becoming regular title contenders, all with limited resources at his disposal.
In an interview published on Liverpool’s official website, he said that while the decision may come as a shock to many people, it is ultimately being made because he is “running out of energy” and that he cannot continue to “do the job again, and again, and again, and again.” Mr Klopp clarified that he is in a healthy condition, yet having to manage different areas of the club, from being on the touchline during matches and delivering training sessions, to planning for one season after another and overseeing the signing the club is making, is taking a toll on him.
He explained that while leaving the club is not something that he wants to do, it is what he thinks is “100 per cent right.”
These are words that undoubtedly resonate with many leaders, especially in the hectic business world.
Additionally, he is not the first high-profile person to make this type of decision, with leaders such as former Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler retiring from his position in 2010 because he wanted some time to “recharge,” and same goes for Jacinda Ardern, former Prime Minister of New Zealand.
A lack of energy and burnout has troubled business leaders for countless years, and while there has been an increase in awareness on this subject of late, it is still a topic that is still kept relatively under wraps.
Following Mr Klopp’s announcement, MaltaCEOs.mt reached out to Alex Falzon, a leadership and sales coach, as well as a self-described football fanatic, to hear his thoughts on how the German manager influenced the leadership space, both on and away from the football pitch.
Mr Falzon has more than four years of experience as a speaker and a coach, helping individuals and organisations achieve their full potential through coaching and training in sales, leadership, and mindset. He is Founder of his own sales consultancy and advisory firm, leveraging his expertise in B2B sales, sales management, and corporate development.
“A great leader knows when to enter a team and when to exit it as well. The capacity to know when to do so involves a great awareness from the leader’s part,” Mr Falzon explained.
He added that acts like Mr Klopp’s are signs that one is putting the team first, as he ultimately “transmits his energy from the touchline to the squad.”
Mr Falzon noted that the football manager has been a source of inspiration to him for several years, particularly through his approach of knowing that he is not the best in every single department.
“I need experts around me. It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you. Then everybody can act,” Mr Klopp had said in 2019.
“That’s what leadership is: have strong people around you with a better knowledge in different departments than yourself, don’t act like you know everything, be ready to admit,” he added.
Mr Falzon said that it is crucial for a leader to have this level of self-awareness and that one ultimately “never makes it about themselves.”
Even in last week’s interview, Mr Klopp spurred the team on to continue pushing on all fronts, with the Merseyside-based club top of the English Premier League at the time of writing, while also being in the latter stages of the UEFA Europa League, FA Cup, and Carabao Cup.
The leadership coach remarked that the timing of the decision is also perfect, “as he is possibly aware of the impact that it will have on the players and the fans,” particularly emotionally and mentally. “He is playing his cards right too,” Mr Falzon continued.
In addition to this, he is particularly fascinated by Mr Klopp’s ability to realise that he is not the best man to take the club forward in the future, and also recognising that his mental well-being should take priority.
“He’s putting himself in a vulnerable state, saying he’s not a superhero as he’s tired. However, it is notable that he is not waiting for someone else to fire him, but he is making the decision himself, thus solving a problem for others,” Mr Falzon said.
Similar to the football manager’s case, business leaders need to remain alert and up to speed with the physical and mental demands of essentially being the face of an organisation. In a post-COVID-19 world, maintaining a healthy work-life balance has become a priority for many, including those at helm of a business or organisation.
Thus, Mr Falzon emphasised that it is important that leaders acknowledge when they are feeling burnt out are on the verge of doing so.
“He [Mr Klopp] is indirectly speaking about mental health and of being aware that he is tired,” he remarked.
“In the leadership world, we only realise that we’re burnt out when it a bit too late in the day. Despite this, most of the time, the signs are already there, such as possibly waking up tired,” Mr Falzon added.
He explained that this mental fatigue tends to be constantly and is not something that one can simply sleep over and dismiss. “It is about getting that excitement back,” he affirmed.
As he returned to the news surrounding Mr Klopp, Mr Falzon said that at the end of the day, “leadership is all about achieving a goal,” and it is notable that while the football manager said that he is going to take a break from football for a year, he’s still keeping the goal of winning trophies and maintaining success with the club as “crucial and important.”
When asked what advice he would give to individuals who are feeling exhausted and mentally drained due to their work schedules, Mr Falzon said that first and foremost, it is essential for one to “own up about it.”
“It is very important to speak about these things. Mr Klopp had the guts to say he’s tired and that he may not be the right man for Liverpool’s future. He realised this himself and maybe he doesn’t want others to tell him that,” he explained.
Following this, one needs to do all they can to seek help. Guidance and assistance can come in many shapes and sizes, from speaking to family members and friends, to consulting a mentor or other individuals who have seen and done it before.
Mr Falzon said that the most important element is to get to speak about the issue with someone in a safe space and to identify the reason why one is exhausted.
“This exercise could help the individual to stop, think, and realign themselves with their purpose,” he added.
He also emphasised that a healthy work-life balance is vital in today’s world, as even though there is “no one-size-fits-all model,” one needs to “be aware from where their energy is coming from and where it is being used.”
Jürgen Klopp / Liverpool FC
He replaces Jose Ramon Alegre, who resigned from the position at the start of 2024.
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