Sir Alex shows us the passion

How has the job of managing come to be seen as a chore or an impossibility?

by Matthew Gwyther, MT editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

One of the odd things I'm often asked after confessing to a stranger that my trade is journalism is, 'which celebrities have you interviewed?' I normally mumble something about Schumacher (earnest and straight), Rudolph Giuliani (cock-sure), Pink Floyd (remarkably civilised), Simon Le Bon (wife did all the talking) and Rowan Atkinson (said nothing). Then I add that celebrities are actually often quite dull, and, in fact, ordinary people are usually far more compelling and have the best stories to tell.

Well, as you've noticed this month, we have one of the most celebrated managers in the world on the cover - Sir Alex Ferguson. Dull he isn't.

Ferguson is a remarkable individual and fiercely defended by those who surround him. Ours was a rare audience. Manchester United guards what it owns with great care - one of the reasons it is the most commercially successful football club in the world. (Only twice before has our photographer had conditions so onerous placed on his work and that was when he was snapping Kylie Minogue and Demi Moore.)

In the flesh, Sir Alex is calm, thoughtful, but not lacking in strong opinions about how things need to be done on and off the field. The key to him is his unwavering passion, still burning at 63, and his all-consuming desire to win. The intensity of his relationships with his players is unlike that between manager and employee in any orthodox business. David Beckham discovered this when he found himself in the way of that flying boot, which left him with a butterfly dressing over his eyebrow.

For every Ferguson there are tens of thousands of managers in this country who ply their profession week in, week out without accolade. Our feature about what they do is a deliberate call-to-arms. MT feels that for too long management has been over-bashful about its name. The 'M' word is unmentionable in a world where the badge 'leader' or 'entrepreneur' is worn with far more pride. I've been guilty of it myself, winding up in Pseud's Corner in Private Eye when trying to explain why we had changed 'Management Today' on the cover to 'MT'.

Why has the job of managing people - surely one of the most profoundly important and worthwhile things any of us could ever do - come to be seen as a mixture of dreadful chore and daunting impossibility? It's not all down to David Brent.

One thing is for sure, our obsession with celebrity has gone too far.

When a manager gets home after a hard day during which they have used skill and application to do the right thing and help their organisation to success, they have every right to feel better about themselves than a talentless D-list nobody who has just got a spread in Take a Break and done a personal appearance at a club opening simply because they once appeared on Big Brother.

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