The champions league final: value-based management

Manuel Bermejo. Professor. IE Business School

7 July 2011

Successful family businesses, like the best football teams of the moment, have long-term vision and defend solid values.

If one there is one key feature of successful family businesses, those that stand as examples for the rest, it is that their members share a long-term project and sound values that are passed on from one generation to the next. Working for the short-term result is important - without profitability, sustainability is not possible - but the "long-term vision" that was so often called for by Ortega y Gasset is also necessary. According to the great Spanish philosopher, "progress can only be made by thinking big, by looking far into the future".

Last Saturday´s Champions League final gave us an excellent opportunity for observing value-based management. The most successful teams of the last 10 years and, possibly, the most internationally admired at the present time played each other.

For years, Barcelona has made a clear commitment to a specific model and values: to cultivating its youth squad, committing to a type of football, finding qualities beyond football skills and understanding that athletes must first of all be human beings. The transfer of captaincy to Abidal so that, after recovering from a liver tumour in only a few months, he could collect the European Cup speaks well of the values in the team´s changing room. But I do not want to focus only on the winners, because winning or losing in the world of sport is often whimsical.

Manchester United is led by a Scotsman with clear ideas. Over the last 25 years, Sir Alex Ferguson has given his team a physiognomy that is easily recognised. A team in which the collective and serving the common project are more important than anything else. A style that goes beyond the pitch and in which it is easy to recognise values such as pride and gentlemanliness.

Family businesses must be aware of the importance of having entrepreneurial leaders at the helm of their projects. Guardiola and Ferguson are magnificent examples. Leaders who are capable of generating strategic alignment in their teams, managing commitment and, when all is said and done, winning projects that can be sustained over time.

So, to paraphrase Clinton´s adviser during his first campaign, I would like to end this post with the slogan "values, please, values".

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