Arne Friedrich: Why being a leader is not just a job title
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Arne Friedrich: Why being a leader is not just a job title
by Jonathan Rest

The 82-cap German international, and current Sporting Director of Hertha BSC, shares his leadership traits with TransferRoom and explains why clubs need to pay more attention to the mental wellbeing of their players.

If you want people to follow you, you have to build trust first. If you are in a certain position, people have to follow you because of your job title. But mostly that is short term. If you really want them to follow you, you have to provide trust. Get to know them. Authenticity is really important.
Arne Friedrich
Sporting Director, Hertha BSC

Building a winning team behind the team

 

Friedrich was enticed back to Hertha, where he made the majority of his 300 club appearances, as Performance Manager in late 2019 by then new manager Jurgen Klinsmann.

 

Six months later he was promoted to Sporting Director, since which time he has had to overcome the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, changes in senior management and the threat of relegation. He even had a short stint as interim manager.

 

“Suddenly, I was back on the stage,” Friedrich told the TransferRoom Virtual Summit on November 10.

 

Providing an exclusive insight into his leadership approach, Friedrich said: “Surround yourself with amazing people that are always able to challenge you. When you have to make a decision, get a good team around you. I try to gather really good staff around me. 

 

“We are all good at something, but we are not all good at everything. So get people to challenge you on a regular basis. If you are in trouble, if the team is under attack and the results are negative, it’s really important to keep a positive mindset and display that. Even if you don’t feel it. It’s crucial how you act. Pretend to be composed, and always think about the mid-to-long-term goal.” 

 

Friedrich, it is clear, is not a fan of the top down approach to management. Instead he prefers to adopt a serving attitude, identifying ‘humility, trust and authenticity’ as his three most important ingredients for a leader.

 

He explained: “If you want people to follow you, you have to build trust first. If you are in a certain position, people have to follow you because of your job title. But mostly that is short term. If you really want them to follow you, you have to provide trust. Get to know them. Authenticity is really important… If you have a strong team and care about each other, I think you have the best results.”

 

 

 

 

Looking after hearts and minds

 

And achieving best results on the field does not just come from being in peak physical condition. Friedrich takes great importance in emotional wellbeing, a concept he learned from his close friend Dr John Ashley Null, which essentially looks at how players react to these high pressure situation

 

“Footballers are not robots, we all have to deal with different things off the pitch. Happy and fulfilled people work better so then we have a better outcome.”

 

Under Friedrich’s guidance Hertha have rolled out a pilot project with their Under 17s to assess the impact of emotional wellbeing and encourage young players to discuss their feelings, while at first team level, with the help of the Research Institute, Minneapolis, a strength and value assessment tool has been created, which will play a key role in recruitment.

 

Friedrich explained: “We have all kinds of scouts that are checking our players on their skills but mindset and mentality is becoming really, really important. The strength and value assessment tool is something we want to run through each and every player, the ones on our roster now and those we have a mind on signing in the future. 

 

“We really want to figure out how this particular person fits into our group and also figure out their strength and values. Only if you understand and know the people do you know how to bring them together as a group.”

 

Summit stats

 

Friedrich was the guest speaker at the latest TransferRoom Virtual Summit, which was a record-breaking event:

 

  • 323 participants

  • 272 clubs from 48 countries and 76 leagues

  • 27 agencies from 15 countries

  • Total meetings: 1413

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