Jun 21

Three Leadership Lessons To Be Learned From Juergen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund’s Champion Coach

Heinz Landau
Heinz Landau is a seasoned business leader who has gained valuable working and leadership experience on three different continents.

Last month, Borussia Dortmund won the German “Bundesliga” football championship. No doubt that being a boyhood and lifelong supporter of Borussia Dortmund I am very happy about that. I was even lucky to be in the stadium together with my father and my son on the day Borussia won the championship. Borussia Dortmund became the youngest ever football champion in German history, with an average age of the players of 24.2 years.

The father of this triumph is Juergen Klopp, Dortmund’s champion coach. Klopp’s authentic and fierce obsession for football is a never ending source of inspiration, motivation and energy for his players, other club officials and the fans.

There are several leadership lessons to be learned from Juergen Klopp. We will focus on the three most important ones.

LESSON 1: Ignite passion in your team

Klopp exemplifies day by day his passion for football. Together with Aki Watzke, the managing director and Michael Zorc, the sports director of the club, he built a vision for the club, his team of players and the supporters. Their slogan is “We live football!” And everybody, all players, the club officials and the fans have a clear role to play.

Klopp makes sure that the players do not see their job simply as means to an end – money, but that the players’ hearts are in their work. Klopp was able to convince his players that they are at the right place despite the fact that some of them could earn more money somewhere else.

His enthusiasm for football is contagious. His players would never try to do only the minimum to get by. Since they believe in what they are doing, his players are always willing to give it all and to go the extra mile.

Klopp has successfully tapped into the career purpose and passion of his players, igniting a spirit within that translated into an outstanding performance culminating in the win of the championship.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to build an inspiring vision for our team members to follow. We have to show them how the outcome will benefit them as well as the whole organization. We must create an environment where people can thrive, grow and succeed with passion.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to build an inspiring vision for our team members to follow. We have to show them how the outcome will benefit them as well as the whole organization. We must create an environment where people can thrive, grow and succeed with passion.

LESSON 2: Put the team above everything

In football, it is all too common that players have a quest for ego-driven glory. Therefore, Klopp puts in his players’ minds that the most important thing is the team. Together with his players, he developed a set of values for his team.

In front of the players’ dressing room, there is a signboard that reads as follows:


- Total commitment

- Fierce obsession

- Determination, irrespective of the run of play

- To support everybody

- To allow others to help you

- Everybody uses 100 % of his qualities (ability and skill) for the benefit of the team

- Everybody takes up responsibility

Klopp was able to create great team spirit. He is well liked and trusted by his players, since he shows human warmth and treats them with fairness and respect. He treats every player the same way, irrespective of his public standing and reputation. Klopp doesn’t criticize his players in public, but only under four eyes.

His players are always willing to live the team’s philosophy and to give it their all. As a result, no football team in Germany is running more kilometers during a match than Borussia Dortmund. And even on the training ground, Klopp and the players do their utmost, showing a strong sense of customer orientation. They will not leave until the last fan has got his autograph.

The great team spirit is also proven by the fact that during the whole season there were no public complaints from players who were sitting on the bench.

Concluding it can be stated that good team work is vital to the success of any organization, no matter whether it is a football club or a company. And it all starts with making all team members understand that they have to put the team and its future before themselves.

LESSON 3: Give youth a chance

Contrary to English Premier League clubs like Chelsea FC or Manchester City who try to win titles through the purchase of expensive world class players, Borussia Dortmund has the philosophy to develop homegrown stars. This is an economic necessity due to the financial constraints of the club. Klopp was willing to go this path.

He and the club’s scouting team brought in a number of highly talented and affordable young players who are hungry for success and eager to learn. Klopp and his team made sure that only players with the right character and attitude were hired.

As a trained sports educator, Klopp is ideally suited for developing and implementing a concept to build up these young talents. He showed his confidence in them and provided to many of them the opportunity to play at a young age in the team. Not only that Borussia Dortmund became this year the youngest German football champion ever, but even five of these young players were nominated for the German national team. An outstanding success that built up Borussia Dortmund’s reputation as a club where young talents get a real chance early in their career and will be successfully developed.

Today, in many companies, hierarchical layers are still a big barrier when it comes to the growth of young and promising talent. People have to mark time in their positions before they can move up and obtain more responsibilities.

However, when talented young employees and managers are given a chance early in their career, they typically deliver.

A company who is living proof for this is the German sports and lifestyle company PUMA. In 1993, they appointed Jochen Zeitz as their CEO when he was only 30 years old. He was the youngest chairman in German history to head a company listed on the German stock exchange. In March this year, PUMA picked his successor and appointed the 32 years old Franz Koch as PUMA’s future CEO. Obviously, PUMA must have had a good experience with giving youth a chance.

Summarizing it can be said that as a result of the highly effective leadership of its passionate coach Juergen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund is well positioned for future success. Klopp’s and the club’s focus on developing young homegrown stars make Borussia Dortmund an attractive club for young talented players from all over the world.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 at 17:27 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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