Quiet Leadership: Winning Hearts, Minds and Matches

carlo ancelottiDate Finished: August 2018
Did I Like It? 9/10

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Carlo Ancelotti is a different kind of football manager than most. He is quiet, and he knows this. His book is full of information about how he has learned to be a manager, including learnings from his mistakes. There is a storong focus on communication, relationships, and leadership.

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What I Highlighted:

Ancelotti, Carlo

There is power and authority in being calm and measured, in building trust and making decisions coolly, in using influence and persuasion and in being professional in your approach.

Leadership can be learned but cannot be imitated.

What you won’t find in this book is a chapter on relationships. This is because relationships form the foundation of everything I do as a leader, so they feature on every page: relationships with those above me, with my support team and, most importantly, with the players.

It is my responsibility to help the players stay in love. If I can succeed in this, then I am happy.


The problem is that when you become a manager after finishing a playing career so recently, you think that you know everything.

If the players have a lot of respect of you, you have to speak both for them and with them.

In the beginning I just copied his methods, but gradually I began to develop my own ideas and objectives –and my own training schedules.

I had to be pragmatic. Loyalty and integrity have limits; how loyal would Parma have been to me if the season started badly? And Milan was family, which must always be the first loyalty.

Nothing is as important as being loved and valued.

This honeymoon period with the players never lasts long because immediately after that, they are looking at you and asking, ‘What can this guy do for me?’

I like to think through difficult times, address the problems coolly and with reason.

This is where building strong relationships comes into play. The players knew that the owner was on my case and they felt that they had let me down. They began playing for me; they felt that they owed me and they responded brilliantly.

To break a relationship there are little details that all add up.

What they hire me for is my ability to calm the situation at a club by building relationships with the players, which is one of my biggest strengths. They hire me to be kind and calm with the players and then at the first sign of trouble along the way that’s the very characteristic they point to as the problem.

I needed to introduce the conditions and organization that would help build the kind of winning mentality that the big clubs all possess.

Do your job to the best of your ability and let others judge you because they will anyway.

Relationships with my staff, my players, the general manager and, of course, the president –they’re vital.

Reference the leaders because they are the ones who will help your career.

But then he started to think that he was a different kind of talent than he was and he stopped working so hard, stopped running so hard –all the things that had made him great –and this affected his career.

A manager has to work with the player to try to get him to be clear about his development; to understand what makes him great.


Nothing is as important as family. In football, there are two forms of family. There is my personal set of trusted lieutenants and staff, people I have worked with over the years, sharing the good times and the bad –people I have great trust in and respect for. They are my football family, and I will talk about these people shortly. Then there is the club as a family.

It is my job to make sure that the family values, whatever they might be, are honoured and respected.

Wherever I go, I am always myself. My personality or style does not change, and ultimately I am hired for who I am.

This is why sometimes the most important job is to build this family atmosphere if it doesn’t exist naturally.

For me personally it is important to learn the language as a way into the culture.

Bothering to learn the language is a reliable indicator of the commitment of the player not just to playing the game, but to flourishing in the new environment.

I tried not to force these things but to suggest, to influence –this is the quiet way.

I see differences in the way things are in different countries, different approaches and cultures and management styles. One is not better or worse than the other, but they are different, and you must adapt.

Sometimes it is better for this conversation to come from the dressing room leader and not the ‘boss’.

Finally, and most importantly, trust between us should be implicit –and loyalty is paramount. It is non-negotiable.
It should be difficult to break into the ‘family’, but once in it should be even more difficult to be excluded.

The problem with loyalty is that it can last even when it’s damaging. Bringing in tried and trusted lieutenants sounds sensible, but presumably they were also at your side when you were sacked in your previous job.

When arriving at a new club in a new country, it is important to have people on the staff who have a cultural link to both the country and the club you’re arriving at.

I need to have trust so that I can feel comfortable to delegate because I want to empower them and have them as involved as possible.

Listening, learning, being adaptable –they’re all crucial when it comes to integrating effectively into a club’s culture.

Leaders cannot afford to stand still, they must always be developing, progressing.

With the players, for example, it is not the best idea for the manager to always be the one to speak with them about disciplinary matters.

My opinion is that players do their best when they are comfortable, not when they are uncomfortable. When I talk of players being comfortable, I do not mean in their playing –I mean in their minds. They must understand that I am always trying to make them and the team better. The comfort is in the trust built by the relationship.

He was doing what I had asked for the good of the team and it is up to me to protect him for this. This is my view of managing up –to protect the players and to manage expectations. The first is easy, it is natural, but the second is very hard.

It is important to try to recruit people who have the same ideas as you about behaviour and professionalism –people who share your beliefs –and who share the values of the organization they’re joining.

It is a waste of time and energy to fight against something that has already happened –you must manage it.

I hadn’t played a 4-3-3 system very often before, but I had to try it so that Cristiano could play in the position that best suited his talents and, most importantly, from where his talents could be best used for the team.

For me, the solution is never to sacrifice talent by diminishing it, but always to enable it to flourish, because this is always the best for the team. So, the balance must be not lowering the talent to fit the team, but rather raising the team to fit the talent.

I try to keep players I’ve dropped motivated by continually communicating with them and keeping an eye on them
during training, but still, it can be tricky.

Naturally, there will be fallout, but it is essential to remember that one day you might cross the path of that particular person as a boss, a peer or even as a subordinate, and you will be sure to reap what you have sown.

He would take all the pressure off us and blame himself –that’s what great managers do.

Everything should not always be so serious at work. The personal interest is important to me for its own sake, in that I am interested in and care about each individual player, and it also helps to build the relationship for
when the hard decisions have to come later in the season.

Leaders can only lead if followers believe in them. It doesn’t matter why they believe in them. I like to think of the leaders, as either personality leaders or technical leaders. A personality leader uses his strength of character to lead. He is always a talker in the team, speaking to his teammates a lot, often shouting across the pitch, helping everyone out. He should be positive and fearless and he will always step forward when the occasion demands it. A technical leader will not speak as much, but lead by example. Such players are always very professional, someone for all the youngsters to aspire to be like. There might also be what I call a political leader –a player who is seen as a leader by the press and the fans as a figurehead for the club, but these leaders are rarely viewed as such by their teammates.

Explicit rules are changeable, but implicit rules represent the underlying, accepted culture.

It is always best to use soft power, quiet power with the players, to influence and have them follow the implicit rules because they believe in them.

t is essential that any non-negotiables are both explicitly stated and implicitly reinforced by players’ behaviour on the training ground.

I am convinced that ‘getting things done’ in a job is integrally linked to the speed and focus with which decisions are made.

There comes a point with decision-making, particularly in those you make day-to-day, when you need to know where you can adopt a little bit of flexibility and where you have to be strict. It’s easier when the players make the decisions, the rules, to hold them to these rules. The negotiation and flexibility come in the decision-making, but the strictness is applied once the decision has been made.

On some days you might be able to have a bad attitude and win, or a good attitude and lose, but you’re going to win more games with the better attitude.

Ideas can come from anywhere, so you should always listen to people.

At the end, we must all be working towards the same goal. I have no problem about taking the time to explain, but if we have different ideas then I have to convince them that my idea is better than theirs. Of course, they can also convince me. It must be a two-way conversation. That is the power of listening.

Great defensive play is mostly organizational and positional in the modern game –it’s not so much about tackling any more. It’s all about concentration.

In the military, they say that no strategy survives contact with the enemy.

Sometimes this is where the best ideas come from –from constraints.

Character is often more important than technique.

When you have the ball, you have more problems because there is more complexity in creating than in destroying. Destroying is easier, it is about organization and discipline and anybody can be taught this. Creativity is more difficult to teach.

Of course, we rarely get the future right, but we have to start somewhere. Plans never work out perfectly, but having no plan at all is even worse. It means you have no direction and are forced to be reactive instead of proactive.

Any edge that we can gain is an edge that can keep us winning … and keep us in a job.


‘To thine own self be true’ may sound clichéd, but if you are not, you will surely be found out.

You should always know what you’re talking about before you start a negotiation.

You know immediately when you see a leader –it’s the personality, the character. It’s not the technical skills.

The manager has to be willing to listen and change his ideas if it means the chance of greater success.

He would understand that this new professionalism is more intense, that there is less opportunity for fun. On the training ground the players always work hard because it is their profession. For me, professionalism is linked to the intensity that you use when you train –physical intensity, but above all mental intensity. This is what the modern manager must deal with at all times when the players are working.

I began to understand that leading is not about how you see yourself, but how others see you. My responsibility was to be a role model.

Your past achievements always help you when you arrive at a new place. It makes it easier for you to be respected.

References I hope I have made it clear throughout this book just how important it is to have people as ‘reference points’ –people who set an example and act as role models by doing the right things.

Off I have to admit to being a little obsessive, but this is true of most successful people –especially professional athletes.

A key part of the ‘quiet’ philosophy is not to worry about the things over which you have no control.