Football Psychology: Brian McDermott – No Permission To Fail

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Football PsychologistOn Monday evening Reading players received a group text message. It was to inform them that their manager and leader, Brian McDermott, had been relieved of his duties.

Interesting. So no one in a position of authority, had the presence of mind to gather the players together, and explain this major leadership decision face to face. A decision that would have implications for all of the playing staff.

A face to face meeting that would give clarity as to the reason why McDermott was sacked. And then provide an opportunity for the owner Anton Zingarevich, to lift the players mood and morale with an uplifting motivational speech that brought the group together, united in the desire to remain in The Premier League.

As it is Reading go into tomorrows game against Premier League leaders Manchester United, with caretaker manager Eamonn Dolan in charge. And Dolan has spoken of the fact that he speaks to McDermott on the phone everyday!

Brian McDermott had established a strong leadership presence with this Reading group. He had lifted them from the lower end of The Championship into the Premier League in less than three seasons. Yes, they were clearly struggling to remain in the top league, but managers as well as players need time to adapt to competing against the best.

If Reading went down, and McDermott failed to bring them straight back up, then there would be a reasonable argument to say that it was time for a change. But this sacking appears premature and lacking in depth of thought.

McDermott was on the leaders fast learning curve. Your mistakes in the Premier League are exposed. And you have to learn from them. But the absorption of the lessons from those mistakes, isn’t always instant. Sometimes you need time to sit back and reflect. And when you are plotting a survival strategy, that time to think isn’t always available.

A permission to fail is necessary for any leader. Failure reveals the mental strength of that leader in their ability to come back stronger and wiser. Better for the experience.

That’s why the summer break would have been a key time for him. After all Brian McDermott is a leader who brought working practises from Google into the Reading culture! He is hardly a man stuck in an intransigent mindset and practises.

A good leader develops strong bonds and ties with their group. And when he is sacked those ties become severed. In this void new leadership has to reveal itself. Look at how poorly Wolverhampton Wanderers have fared since Mick McCarthy was sacked. Again a leader who had established a strong presence amongst his group. New inspirational leadership has not been forthcoming at Molineux.

And judging by Anton Zingarevich’s textual message communication to the Reading players, its in short supply in Berkshire.