14/06/18, Peter Russian

Is Fernando Hierro football's David Marquet?

Intent-Based Leadership, Leaders at all levels

Fernando Hierro will wake up with an interesting to do list this morning, assuming he got any sleep at all last night…

He’s just been appointed the coach of Spain’s football team, two days ahead of the team’s first World Cup match against Iberian rivals Portugal on Friday. His appointment follows the sacking of Julen Lopetegui who earlier this week had agreed to join Real Madrid.

Hierro’s challenge reminds me of the predicament that L. David Marquet found himself in. Having trained for a year on one class of submarine, he was – at the last minute – appointed the captain of a completely different type of boat. 

Captain Marquet concluded that he couldn’t give orders to a crew that knew the boat better than he did and so, he asked them to state their intent rather than ask permission.

Let’s assume that the Spanish squad under Lopetegui will have been building up to the tournament with a well-planned set of training rituals and immersion in the coach’s tactics. The team has massive experience from the goal keeper David De Gea, to arch villain Sergio Ramos, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva and many more.

So what does Hierro do? Introduce a whole new strategy, tactics and his own preferences for specific players? Or ask the team to use their experience, alongside their understanding of the game plays and tactics practiced under Lopetegui and stick to plan A.

If the team need Lopetegui to still explain the approach, how far do they really understand it or are they just working to short term instructions? Will Hierro be comfortable to work on his predecessor’s plan or will the need to stamp his mark become too compelling?

As the tournament kicks in, Hierro’s role will clearly become more important. There will be in game decisions, substitutions, analysis of opponents in later stages and so presumably his role will become more important if Spain progress.

Lopetegui’s departure has been seen as being potentially catastrophic to Spain’s chances. It’s certainly unprecedented but if his leadership and management skills were so good that Real Madrid came knocking, it will be interesting to see whether his legacy enables the team that he has coached and developed in the last 2 years to progress without needing his day to day instruction.


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