The Five Lessons Gareth Southgate can Teach us about Leadership

Well, that’s it. The World Cup is over. Football didn’t come home. What started as an ironic, self-deprecating joke by England’s supporters turned into the belief that it just bloody well might! But it wasn’t to be. Football decided instead to head over to our European neighbours, France. And who can blame it really. France is a lovely country and its national side played an attacking, free-flowing and exciting brand of football and were surely the best team in the tournament.

We got to the semi-final though, and that’s still decent, but now that it’s over and we’ve come to terms with the crushing disappointment that England didn’t win, what can we learn from this experience?

I think the more important takeaway from this World Cup has been the positivity and togetherness in the England camp, something that’s not always been there in previous squads. Squads arguably with better, certainly higher profile, players This positive approach has clearly come from the manager, Gareth Southgate, who’s been a breath of fresh air with his honest, thoughtful and genuine style of management.

Not a lot of people had much faith when Southgate was appointed the England manager. His quietness was mistaken for weakness and his thoughtfulness for lack of direction, but he got the team playing well together, without any hint of ego or behind-the-scenes problems that previous England squads have had. And he’s managed to reach a World Cup semi-final.

So how has he achieved it? What’s been different about his management style to his predecessors, and what can we learn from it? Here’s my five key leadership lessons from Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup run that we can all implement in our own workplaces:

Be Honest and Authentic

Southgate’s honest approach to management has been evident in his interviews, and has been refreshing to witness. His players have clearly bought in to his philosophy too. As a leader you need to be authentic. You need to believe in what you’re doing to get others to believe in it. Do your research, put the thought and time into making a plan that you feel confident about and have faith in your approach. Clearly inform your team of the goal and make them aware of the plan and their individual tasks. Be open and honest about it. Talk about why you think it’ll work, but be open to suggestions too. Listen to their ideas and take them on board. You need your people to believe in the direction you’re going to make it work, and this is only possible in they believe in you and why you’ve made the decisions you have.

Be Brave with your decisions

Don’t shirk the difficult decisions. Dropping Wayne Rooney from the England squad, a talisman for England for so many years, can’t have been an easy decision for Southgate, but for the balance and cohesiveness of the squad it was one he felt he had to make. This applies to all the decisions you make as a leader, don’t dodge the tough decisions, but think them through and make sure you’re not making them on impulse and without the proper consideration. Be bold, but be able to justify your decisions to your team.

Be Positive and Generous

We’re all just humans, and we all need a bit of encouragement and guidance occasionally. Southgate’s man-management has been exemplary; taking the time to talk to every player individually at the end of each game to offer some words of encouragement and advice is evidence of this.

Making sure your team has the skills it needs to succeed is important, but creating the right atmosphere and environment for success is crucial too. This can as simple as having regular meetings where the staff’s goals and achievements are discussed, but also the company performance. Don’t be shy about talking to them about the company’s performance, they need to know if things aren’t going well, and if you’ve got a good team togetherness they’ll be as keen as you are to make it work.

Trust your people

It helps to hire good staff. Be careful with your recruitment, take on people that you’re confident can do their jobs well, but also are a good cultural fit for the company. Skills can be learned but the right attitude can be much harder to teach. Once you have a team together give them the trust they need to do their jobs, help them to feel valued and important, this will give them and the confidence they need to create great work, to share ideas, to make suggestions and help drive the business

Lead by Example

Be calm and measured in your approach, and don’t panic when things don’t go to plan. You set the tone for your company, your attitude and ideas seep into every aspect of the business, make sure they’re the values that you want the company to represent – for Flow it’s creativity and quality in our work, and openness and honesty in our relationships with clients and collaborators. The team are aware of these values and make them as part of the company’s ethos as much as I do.

Work hard. Be thorough. If your team can see that you are committed to the company’s success they will be too. Be passionate about the work you do. For us that’s creative work, and I’m still as obsessed with great design and animation now as I was before starting the company. If your team can see you’re into it too, and you care about the standard of the work you’re doing, they will too.

Getting your foot in the door can be one of the toughest yet most rewarding stepping stones in your career. You’re ambitious, excited and ready to jump into the creative world and all it’s technicolour. However, your inbox is empty and you can’t catch your break. The struggle is real.

Here are some handy tips to help you land your first creative internship, taken from personal experience.

Early Start

It’s never too early to reach out to creative agencies, even if you’re still at university or college. Making contact whilst studying shows initiative and passion for what you do – all very desirable qualities to an employer.


It’s about who you know

Whether it’s tutors, friends or friends-of-friends, networking is key so make use of the people around you and try to build as many connections as you can.

Your tutors can help you get in touch with creative people or graduates who work in the industry. University degree shows are especially useful for talking to creative professionals so are worth going all out for. I even met Karl – my future boss – at mine.


“Pick up the phone and start dialling”

It may seem simple (or just me quoting ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’), but actually, speaking to somebody on the phone and having a conversation can be more memorable than sending an email.


Get Your Work Online

Having an online presence, whether that’s a website portfolio or an account on social media, means you’re able to share your work easily and professionally. Anywhere, anytime with anyone.


Get Schmoozing

Go to industry talks and events near you. In Manchester, there’s always a creative or design event to go to. Make sure you’re open and approachable as you don’t know who you might meet and what opportunities may arise.


Patience, Persistence and Politeness

The creative industry is competitive, so it could take time to catch your first break. My advice is to stay positive and be patient knowing that your time will come. Keeping an open mind to new opportunities is key, too.


The Flow Lab

At Flow, we offer internships and work experience. I always enjoy working with the up and coming generation of passionate creatives and designers so know that if you come to Flow, you’ll be in for a warm welcome.

Internships are a great stepping stone towards that ultimate goal of getting your first job. In any agency, big or small, your placement will allow you to “get your foot in the door”, surrounding yourself with the people in that agency. And by showing that you’re keen, eager to learn and generally a nice person, you’ll go far!

I interned at Flow for five months before becoming a “fully fledged member of the team” as a Junior Motion Graphic Designer. I’d say that my internship was the most valuable experience for my personal development. There’s nothing like positioning yourself in an agency environment and getting stuck in with live projects. I was given a lot of responsibility, which helped develop my skills quickly. Two years on and no longer a junior, I’ve had the privilege to be involved in award-winning campaigns for clients such as the BBC and Arts Council England.

Flow’s on the lookout for interns to help on client projects, so get in touch with your showreel now. We can’t wait to hear from you.


T: 0161 236 1232

Flow Creative