There was a time many years ago, prior to the intrusion of the media and, more recently, the rise of social media, when business leadership was a purely internal affair. Managers had to earn the respect of their workforce, but any criticism or praise was kept largely in-house.
Things, however, are not the same today. The business environment is transparent and leadership styles are open to criticism both internally and externally, particularly in the case of big brands. We have seen from the recent PR disaster involving Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers, that when things go wrong, the company’s humiliation is there for all to see.
The bigger the brand, the more important the PR becomes. This is a lesson that is still yet to be learned by Tottenham manager Andre Villas Boas.
Responding to criticism in the media after refusing to substitute goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who had been seemingly disorientated after a blow to the head, Villas Boas branded all of his critics “incompetent people with no experience.” Last weekend during a press conference he engaged in a needless argument with Lord Alan Sugar, after The Apprentice guru and former Spurs chairman had criticised him on Twitter.
Clearly Villas Boas is not a man who values the opinions of those in the media. Unfortunately for him media relations are now as important to any management role as strategy and motivation. Whether this should be the case or not, is simply irrelevant.
Almost two years since his tempestuous relationship with the press sparked his downfall at Chelsea, Villas Boas would be wise to rise above criticism and remain on good terms with those in the media rather than pick fights with them. Whatever he thinks of them, they are important to him.
The same can be said of any business, particularly one which is regularly in the public eye. Your external image as a manager is as important as your reputation with your colleagues. Handled well, the media can make Gods of you. But if you lose their respect, your relationship with all current and future employees will be lost as well.