During his time at Swansea City, newly appointed Brighton manager, Graham Potter, outlined the leadership values that shape his daily work.

As Graham Potter said his goodbyes at former club, Swedish side Östersunds, the Chairman put a book in the soon-to-be Swansea City manager’s hand.

Inside, in both Swedish and English, was an outline of the club vision, objectives and values – a memento of the work he and the chairman had worked to define over the previous eight years. 

The five values documented are the guiding principles Potter said he ‘lived by’ during his successful stay in Scandinavia. 

With the publication now an arm’s length away from him in his office at the Swans’ training ground, the Swansea boss explains how the values came to be and how he aims to apply them with the Championship side.


Transparency

It’s important not to try and hide anything from anybody. I want to be who I am, what you see and be really open. My [leadership] approach isn’t necessarily a game. My only aim is to try to be open and honest about how I act. 

As a football coach, or certainly as a manager, you can be tempted to do something for the short-term in order to get results. I want to have thoughts about the long-term and make decisions that you know, even if you’re not around, are the right decisions.

They’re only words and it’s easy to say, but it’s how you are every day which is key 

Long-term viewWhen I realised I was going to stop playing football for a living it was quite a powerful thing. It was the moment for me to consider my next move: who do I want to be as a coach? What am I going into this business for? Ultimately, what do I want from it? 

And part of the answer was: I like developing, I like seeing people improve. The fact that you can impact someone’s life in a positive way – not solely because of me - but because of the environment you create, can have a positive influence and stay with people for the rest of their lives, I think that’s the most important thing.

Graham Potter celebrates with Oliver McBurnie, during their time at Swansea City
Potter believes helping others to develop and progress is one of the most important parts of being a coach. Image: Kieran McManus/BPI/REX

Sincerity and honestyAt Östersunds we were in a similar position to when we started here with Swansea. We were in the fourth tier of Swedish football and in many ways it’s similar to when you are relegated from the Premier League. There’s distrust, disappointment, frustration, anger, blame; there are all these negative things and really the only way you can start to get your head around that and change that is by being honest, open, sincere and trustworthy.

Of course, they’re only words and it’s easy to say them, but it’s how you are every day which is key. In football you have to make decisions and choices and I think that if you have these values you can use it as a bit of a map, so if you steer off somewhere else you know you can get back.

I can’t stand on the side and say ‘oh, stop ref, I need five minutes here to talk to the team' 

Reliability When you’re in a leadership role, people need to know that win, lose, or draw, there has to be a consistency in how you act and behave. Rather than you win and everything is good and then you lose and everything is bad.

There has to be a consistency in what you’re doing and how you do it. I think there’s always a case that you need to be 1% unpredictable as well, just to keep people on their toes, but generally there’s a need to be consistent.

Graham Potter issues instructions from the touchline at Bramall Lane.
Potter believes in sticking to his values and being consistent with his approach. Image: Ryan Browne/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

 

ProfessionalismI sometimes think we're in this hierarchical culture that says ‘I’m the coach and I have all the answers and I’m perfect’ and I’m totally not.

I think professionalism is about doing your best, taking responsibility for what you do, analysing what you do and trying to get better. It’s not about being perfect and having all the solutions and answers.

What we need to do is try to create an environment where the players feel empowered, confident and motivated enough to make their own decisions and stand by those, because that‘s ultimately how you can develop players and the team.

I can’t stand on the side and say “oh stop ref, I need five minutes here to talk to the team”, you’ve got to be able to develop players to be able to take those decisions.

Another aspect of this is being brave. When you have team selections or decisions around how you want to play, there’s a safe way - that may protect you - or there’s a brave way and even if it’s a 50-50 decision, you end up with the brave way because it’s one of your values. The value system can help to make decisions when there are difficult choices to be made.


Graham Potter was appointed as Brighton manager in May 2019. He has previously managed Swansea City as well as Swedish side Östersunds and recently graduated from the FA Level 5 course. Article image courtesy of Paul Currie/BPI/REX.


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