Five Things Jose Mourinho Can Teach You About Leading Winning Teams

Ten years after bringing Chelsea their first league championship in five decades, Jose Mourinho clinched the first piece of silverware of his Second Coming when his team beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium in February.


But what is it that makes Mourinho such a successful coach? From winning the Champion’s League final with FC Porto, to transforming Chelsea from West London also-rans into one of the most recognisable sports brands in the world, “Le Translator” has already established himself as one of the finest managers in football history. But what lessons can you learn from Mourinho’s meteoric rise? Which of his strategies can you employ to help your own team deliver?

Here are five things Jose Mourinho can teach you about leading winning teams:

If You Want To Be Successful, It Helps to Have the Right Mentor

Jose Mourinho learned from the best. When he joined Sir Bobby Robson at Barcelona, he was little more than an interpreter. It wasn’t long, though, before he became one of the silver fox’s most trusted confidants. Likewise, when Robson was unceremoniously replaced by dour Dutch winner Louis Van Gaal, Mourinho remained at the manager’s right hand.

From mixing with the team’s star players, who at the time included legends like Rivaldo*, **Hristo Stoitchkov and Pep Guardiola, to running training sessions and taking control of friendly matches, Mourinho was given unprecedented access to the workings of two of the finest managers of the modern era; it couldn’t help but rub off.

To be a successful leader, you’ve got to know the ropes. No one achieves greatness without having a mentor to guide them. It just so happens Mourinho had two of the greatest. Without the input of Robson and Van Gaal, it’s unlikely Mourinho would have been so successful so quickly. If you’re serious about leading a high-performing team, then spend a bit of time finding the right people to help you.

Let Your Team Focus on the Job in Hand

Since he first landed in England as Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho has had a love-hate relationship with the sporting press. He’s courted controversy with his comments to the extent that he’s received multiple touchline bans, coerced referees into retiring and offended most of the mainstream media. He’s acerbic, confrontational and always quotable; more so than anyone since the legendary Derby County, *Leeds United** (briefly) * and Nottingham Forest coach Brian Clough.

But why does a man who is, by all accounts, quiet and unassuming in his personal life so flamboyant in front of a camera? For Mourinho, the media is a game to be played in however he needs to in order to support his team. By grabbing the headlines, he cleverly moves the spotlight away from his players. How many of them (Club Captain John Terry excepted) do you see having their private lives plastered over the back pages?

At Chelsea, Jose Mourinho makes the news, not his team. By taking the tabloid bullets himself, he allows his men to concentrate on their job; winning every trophy they can. If you want to lead a winning team, you’ve got to let your troops focus on the job in hand. Step into the firing line whenever you need to, and keep their distractions to a minimum.

Practice Makes Perfect

Rather than bombard his charges with complicated training regimes and off-field activities, Mourinho focuses on what’s guaranteed to bring his team success; their ability to play football, to score goals, to win matches. A masterful analyst (the dossiers he produced on opposing teams for Sir Bobby Robson were nothing short of exhaustive), Mourinho understands the modern game inside-out.

It sounds ridiculous, but there are plenty of other coaches who don’t. For all his ability to instill confidence into his teams, Kevin Keegan paid little or no attention to tactics; just go out at play was the long and the short of his game-winning plan. Mourinho on the other hand, is a man who thinks about football in a depth that would impress even the most ardent statistician.

Jose Mourinho’s teams practice. Like Napoleon, who considered all eventualities good and bad when he was planning a military campaign, Mourinho works out everything that could happen and makes sure his men know it. Tellingly, when asked for his thoughts on the now-defunct “silver goal” in the Champions League, Mourinho shrugged it off as just another factor his squad needed to prepare for. Make sure your team know their roles inside out and they’ll deliver.

Failure Is Just Another Stepping Stone to Success

Contrary to popular myth, Jose Mourinho did not arrive at FC Porto as an unstoppable winning force. Briefly coaching Porto’s fierce rivals Benfica, he’d been sacked after little more than a few months at the helm. The jury was still out as to whether he’d be able to cut it as a manager; even Sir Bobby Robson still had to be convinced, advising Mourinho that he had a lot of learning to do.

What many didn’t realise, though, was that his failure at Benfica had done much to galvanise Mourninho’s self-belief. In a very short time, he’d learned a lot about management; enough to ensure he’d power Porto to the Portuguese Championship almost immediately. Without this first taste of failure, it’s unlikely that Jose Mourinho could have won the Champion’s League so quickly.

Failure is, more often than not, a more powerful learning experience than success. Don’t panic when things go wrong within your team or your business. Stop, reflect, take stock and work through the lessons you need to take on board.

Don’t Underestimate The Power of Confidence

The most powerful weapon in Jose Mourinho’s locker is his ability to instil confidence in everyone around him. By continually telling his team they’re unbeatable, that they’re the masters of their own destiny and that all-comers will fall before them, Mourinho creates champions. Acting like the leader of the gang, his unwavering belief in his team is contagious.

Craig Bellamy once said Sir Bobby Robson made him feel like the best player in the world; Jose Mourinho does the same with his. Supremely confident in his own ability and the ability of his men, Mourinho has a vision, and if you’re part of his team he believes you can deliver it.

If you want your team to deliver for you, then you’ve got to give them the confidence they need to succeed. Make your confidence in them visible and they’ll follow you wholeheartedly. Chelsea might have bucketloads of money, but that doesn’t mean their players are born winners; Mourinho’s job is making sure their potential becomes a reality.

What do you think? Is Jose Mourinho a fine example of a modern leader? Let me know in the comments.