José Mourinho is regarded among many as one of the greatest coaches in football history, and he is the current manager of Manchester United. In his 10-year managerial career, he has helmed top football clubs such as Porto, Real Madrid and Chelsea.
A Short Biography
José Mourinho was born in Portugal on January 26th, 1963. From a young age, his mother encouraged him to aim for success in all his endeavors. His father was a professional goalkeeper and perhaps because of this Mourinho always had a keen interest in football. When his father moved on to coaching, Mourinho followed his lead and began to study opposing teams and game tactics.
After being a school coach for a few years, Mourinho wanted to go into professional coaching and looked for inroads into his desired career. He ended up working as an interpreter for the famous football coach, Sir Bobby Robson. Mourinho developed a friendship with Robson and discussed football tactics and strategies. He followed Robson across several clubs from Sporting, to FC Porto and to Barcelona.
His first break into professional coaching came in September of 2000 when he was appointed manager for the Portuguese club, Benfica. He had quick successes there, but was asked to leave soon after due to conflict with the club president.
Nonetheless, Mourinho caught the attention of the top tier clubs in Portugal. He was hired to manage FC Porto in 2002. He was extremely successful at the club, guiding the team to win the Primeira Liga, Portuguese Cup, and the UEFA Cup in 2003. He continued to have similar successes in subsequent seasons.
His next stint at Chelsea was also remarkable. He led Chelsea to six trophies in three years. However, after a fall-out with owner Roman Abramovich, he left the club in 2007.
After Chelsea, he coached at Inter Milan with relative success before moving on to Real Madrid. In 2012, he led Real Madrid to its first La Liga title in 4 years. He returned to manage Chelsea from 2013 to 2015 before moving on to head Manchester United in 2016.
Leadership Lessons from Jose Mourinho
1. Appeal to team members as individuals
Mourinho’s coaching style is known for being heavily influenced by psychology. “A coach must be everything: a tactician, motivator, leader, methodologist, psychologist.” To that end, he often tailored his approach to individuals on his team to get maximum buy-in. For instance, while coaching at Chelsea, he told Frank Lampard that he was possibly the world’s best player, but he needed to win championships in order to prove it. This appealed to Lampard’s desire to be the best and pushed him to play more for the team than for himself.
People are complex in their decisions and motivations, but it never hurts to study psychology to get an edge. Try to figure out what makes your individual team members tick, and use that to your advantage to achieve organization goals.
2. Communicate your vision and expectations
One of Mourinho’s strengths is his ability to unite his team, and he achieves this by communicating his vision for the team and setting expectations for their behavior and conduct. When he was managing Chelsea, he famously told his players: “from here each practice, each game, each minute of your social life must centre on the aim of being a champion”.
By communicating his vision and expectations, Mourinho set the tone for the team’s mindset and the level of performance he wanted from them. This challenged his players to rise up to meet his standards and had the team playing at a much higher level.
As a leader, work towards becoming a better communicator and unite your team by articulating your vision and setting expectations for team performance. This makes it easier for you to manage your team members and ensures that everyone is aligned towards the same direction.
3. Both successes and failures belong to the team, not just the leader
Mourinho recounted a key piece of advice from Sir Bobby Robson: “When you win, you shouldn’t assume you are the team, and when you lose, you shouldn’t think you are rubbish.”
You are not your team. Just because you are leading the team doesn’t make every victory your credit, and every defeat your failure. It is important that the whole team takes the credit for victory as well as responsibility for defeat. Everyone bears the burden and everyone deserves equal credit.
Books about Jose Mourinho
Quotes from Jose Mourinho
So I know all about the ups and downs of football, I know that one day I will be sacked.
The only thing I would like is to have more control of the game in terms of possession.
And I think because of the passion of every English player and every English supporter, and every English journalist for the game, most of the game is played with passion, love for football and instinct, but in football you also have to think.
Especially when you play at home, you need a good atmosphere behind you.
I enjoy the work, I enjoy every minute of my professional life.
The Porto players were with me for two and a half years, they believed in me, in my methods, in the way we do it. The next day I go and a manager arrives who works completely differently.
When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started.
I feel I have a lot to learn from English football and I am completely open to good influences in my way of thinking football. But I also have things to give them.
In the same way that I had to follow an Italian manager here, I can imagine that it was not easy for an Italian manager to follow me at Porto.
The only thing that we cannot control is our supporters.
Arsenal have won that advantage, nobody gave it to them. By playing fantastic football and by winning matches and by winning trophies, they won that respect that the opponent has for them.
But I think it’s more normal for my team to have no success than it is to win two consecutive European cups.
When you just work tactically, in pure football sessions, you can see the way they can think football.
You have to win and especially, as I have, you have to win a trophy for the first time.
Jose Mourinho Leadership Video
Mourinho talks about his leadership style in this interview about his managerial career:
More Sports Leader Profiles
For leadership profiles of other famous sports leaders, including Alex Ferguson, Muhammad Ali and Jose Mourinho, check out our Sports Leadership Profiles section.
Also check out our Leadership Profiles book series. In each book, we study 10 influential leaders in Business, Military, Politics and Sports.