What can business leaders learn from Gareth Southgate

What can business leaders learn from Gareth Southgate

Throughout the Euros, Gareth Southgate displayed key leadership qualities that every business leader should aspire to. He always leads with compassion, making sure his team’s wellbeing is put first, regardless of their results.

He was praised throughout the Euros for the way he managed the England team. Just some of his leadership qualities include: 


As soon as England lost the final, Southgate instantly took the blame for selecting the penalty-takers. He said It’s down to me. I decided on the penalty-takers, taking responsibility before any of his players could face blame. Self-sacrifice is a crucial part of any leadership, and business leaders can learn from the way Southgate handled England’s failure.

Self-sacrifice isn’t something that many leaders have had training in. In the Western world, we are brought up to believe that putting others ahead of ourselves is painful and will reduce our happiness ‘ but in fact, the opposite will happen. The path to fulfilment and happiness is through putting others before ourselves. If more leaders discovered the fulfilment that sacrifice can bring, the world would be a very different place. 

Self-sacrifice helps to deepen who you are as a person and find your own individual sense of fulfilment. We need more leaders like Southgate who are willing to put their necks on the line to do the right thing.


Southgate is a compassionate leader before anything else, and if I could choose one leadership quality to put above all others it would be compassion. Southgate is always seen to hug his own players after a loss, and he was even seen comforting Danish players after their defeat to England.

The word compassion means ‘suffering with another’ and is all about feeling another person’s physical or emotional pain. In the West we tend to believe that if we put another person’s happiness before ourselves is that we will end up worse off ‘ but again the opposite is true. When we are more compassionate to others and start to put them first, we increase our sense of fulfilment and wellbeing.

There have been so few leaders in the last century that have displayed high levels of compassion, but in the modern world it’s the most important skill every leader should have.


After England’s defeat, Southgate condemned the ‘unforgivable’ racist abuse of players. He also actively supported LGBTQ inclusion initiatives ‘ and we need more leaders willing to do this in order to change the balance in an increasingly unequal world. 

Power and wealth are distributed more unequally than ever before, and it is people who hold power like Southgate who are able to change it.

Inclusivity is about empathy and understanding how people who might be different to us are feeling. It’s something that needs to be at the centre of every leadership ‘ we need to connect with those who might not be the loudest in the room in order to understand how we might have taken opportunity away from them. Otherwise, we will never truly be inclusive.

Do remember though that the only people who should be allowed to describe us as inclusive are the people who are different from us. When some people are excluded within our businesses, we are all weaker for the missing voices.


CS Lewis once said, Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.  Southgate does place his ego at the forefront of his decisions, but he puts his players first. Good leadership is made up of supporting your staff, giving them the glory when things go well, and taking the blame when they don’t.

If England had won the final, Southgate would have praised his players, but in defeat, he blamed himself in media interviews. Good leadership is about making sure you do the best you can, but also without being in the limelight. It takes a secure and grounded person who is confident in their own abilities, to become someone who happily gives attention to others for their own job well done.


Southgate radiates calmness during tense moments in football ‘ especially during extra time against Denmark. Despite what was probably happening inside of him, he appeared calm and collected for his players.

For most people, this won’t come very naturally, but leaders need to learn to keep their heads while others might be losing theirs. One of the greatest leaders ever, Nelson Mandela, had a reputation for being hot-headed in his early life, but when he was released from prison, he exuded a sense of calm. 

Being calm doesn’t mean you have to shut out your emotions. Vulnerability is also important as a leader, something Southgate showed during the Euros. Good leaders will show vulnerability to those they lead, as it creates trust between their staff. 

Paul Hargreaves
Paul Hargreaves

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