Howard Webb: Leaders must not be ‘anonymously competent’

Business leaders must be prepared to make the big decisions when they need to be made and not hide in the shadows, according to former top flight football referee Howard Webb.

He also highlighted how preparation, constructive self-evaluation and personal drive were essential to reach the top of a career.

Webb, whose career accomplishments included refereeing the World Cup and European Cup finals, said it was important not to be seen as “anonymously competent”.

Speaking at the HR Directors Business Summit, Webb admitted that sometimes he would fall in to the trap of wanting a “quiet game” and as a result not rise to the occasion.

“Anonymously competent – that was the highest accolade I could get,” he said.

“To be anonymously competent meant I’d done my job well. But, I would fall into the trap too often to make that my objective – to fall under the radar, to not be seen. And the best referees are not the ones who are not noticed, they are the ones who are seen and heard when the game needs them to be seen and heard.

“If I went into the game thinking of a quiet game, that ‘I don’t want to be in the headlines’, I would generally not rise to the occasion because I was not doing the job I was being sent to do – and that would put me in the headlines.

“To be anonymously competent is good, but you have to be prepared to be seen and heard when you’re needed to be seen and heard,” he added.

Howard Webb reveals how to resolve conflict and handle difficult personalities

Webb urged business leaders to be prepared to make those decisions in view of the public glare and to trust it team around them.

“I don’t think you see anyone successful in life who isn’t passionate about what they do and prepared to make a big decision – someone who is prepared to be seen and heard when they need to be seen and heard,” he continued.

“Hence when I go into games not wanting to make a big decision I usually cock it up. So you have to be prepared to make a big decision. You have to be prepared to not only have an opinion, but actually act on that – everyone in the stadium has an opinion but only three people have to show that opinion publically by making a decision.

“It takes a bit of courage to do that, but you have to draw upon the fact that you know the laws of the game at your fingertips, you have to have total trust in your team, and you have to take advantage of the time you’ve got,” he added.

Webb noted that scrutiny from others needed to be balanced with performance evaluation from trusted sources.

“In the Premier League all decisions are logged – green or red. A lot of people only look at the red entries, but it’s really important you look at the green ones as well – so that you reemphasise what you did well in the game, otherwise we could fill ourselves with negativity,” he concluded.

Watch the exclusive HRD Connect video interview with Howard Webb



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