Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United by Alex Ferguson, Michael Moritz (With)


If you harbour extraordinary anticipation and are effusively enthusiastic about buying this book, then be forewarned! This is a dampener. Distilling tried and tested wine, Sir Alex has tried, albeit in utter vain to package it in a new designer bottle. But unlike his pedigree in choosing wines, or for that matter football clubs to manage, this attempt at conveying (or trying to convey) his experience in the facet of leadership falls flat just as did the move in appointing poor David Moyes as a reluctant leader at Old Trafford!

At times the book reads as though it is an undisguised paean to the exploits of Christiano Ronaldo, the second best footballer on the Planet currently (although some would argue that he is the numero uno). Whether Sir Alex means it as a subtle overture to his former footballing hero for a homecoming or whether it is a genuine delight at enjoying the dazzling skills of the Portuguese wonder, is anybody’s guess. Consider this startling passage for instance:
“That’s why Beckham became a master of taking free kicks from between 25 and 30 yards from goal; and Giggs from between 18 and 23 yards…..As for Ronaldo, he’d be able to score from free kicks if he took them from behind the moon”. Orbital and dizzying praise indeed!

But to be fair, the book has got its merits as well, although too few and far between. Insights on listening, experience and management provide a few glints of value and practical markers for any aspiring professional. The book, by the way is co-authored by Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital and he also is responsible for providing its most ingratiating chapter. An extended epilogue which has Sir Alex being viewed from the ‘lens’ of Moritz is nothing but an unabashed exercise in pandering and pleasing. Sir Alex is compared to some of the leading icons in Silicon Valley and Manchester United, to the companies led by those stalwarts. By the time one trudges through till the end of the epilogue, the feeling is one of extreme relief!

Despite being a die hard fan of the Red Devils and an unashamed admirer of Sir Alex Ferguson, I have to admit that this book is a serious let down. There is a marked absence of sequence, flow and connect. It is more a collection of random interviews sans the inverted commas than a concerted and dedicated effort to disseminate some useful facets of leadership and management.

“Leading from My Life…” – Unfortunately leading nowhere!

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