So Rafa Benitez finally lets off steam. The pressure that had been building on him since first arriving at Stamford Bridge, finally came out at The Riverside. Yes it made great headlines for the tabloids. But was his public frankness wise?
All leaders experience pressure and stress. But they generally learn to keep it private. They deal with things quietly in the background, refusing to show signs of weakness or emotional fraility to their team or group.
For example, if Benitez didn’t feel a group of Chelsea supporters weren’t getting behind the team, then he should have met with them and talked things through in confidence. Shared differing points of view yes, but fundamentally come to the agreement of working together on behalf of Chelsea FC.
If he didn’t agree with their stance regarding his tenure, then he needed to understand why they were uncomfortable. Known why they felt so strongly, that he wasn’t the right fit for Chelsea FC.
And if he felt that his title of Interim Manager compromised him, then again, that should have been resolved and settled with the board at the start of his reign. Ok he didn’t like the title. But he should have accepted it, as part of the deal that brought him back into the professional game.
Of course leaders are allowed to say in public what they think and feel. And it makes a change from the normal bland offerings we are fed on a weekly basis by football managers.
But as we know from Kevin Keegan’s famous public rant in 1996, it simply doesn’t look and feel right. It sends a message out to the group that their leader has lost control. That things have got to him. And when players see that of a leader, then respect is weakened.
That’s why an under-pressure leader has to have an outlet. For example, a leadership coach or similar with whom they can share their frustrations and anxieties, clear their head, settle their emotions, and come up with solutions to the problems they face and experience.
Rafa has let his frustrations bottle up. Mistake. It was inevitable that something, at some point would trigger his emotions. He has made that error before in his career during his time at Liverpool, when Fergie got under his skin.
The Spaniard has not learnt his lesson it seems. And leaders who don’t learn from their mistakes, invariably remain locked into a certain level of capability.