The start of any year is rife with speculation. Futurists, temporary and permanent, are exploring predictions and possibilities, seeking guidance from a wide range of indicators across all aspects of our over-stimulated lives.

As ever, sport is a favourite point of reference. What we can we all learn from the men and women who act out our sporting fantasies while also demonstrating qualities that readily transfer into business? This month’s Market Leader, the Marketing Society’s quarterly publication, for example, features an interview with acclaimed British cycling coach, Sir Dave Brailsford in which he is asked to pinpoint what success in sport can teach us about bold and inspirational leadership. The article is entitled A Racing Start and aims to contribute to the discussion on how to get off to a flier in 2016.

There is, however, a bigger sporting beast on the minds of commentators at the moment. His name is Pep Guardiola, current coach of FC Bayern Munich, formerly of FC Barcelona, a winner in six and a half seasons of 19 trophies, described by many as the best football manager in the world and certain, within a few months and to enormous fanfare, to join one of the English Premiership’s mega clubs.

Next week Pep will turn 45, a tender age in senior management of such high profile. Already, though, he has established a set of operating principles which have much to offer practitioners in the commercial world. These were conveniently summarised by Marti Perarnau, author of Pep Confidential, in a 2015 issue of men’s active style magazine, The Red Bulletin. And here they are, with a few embellishments.

  1. Know good ideas when you see them. Then steal them. This appears to offend conventional views on originality but in reality it speaks to the power of observing, listening, traveling, reading and re-purposing an existing idea with a fresh take, making it part of a new whole. Stealing in this way was also a top tip for creativity from the late, great David Bowie
  2. Have childlike curiosity. Seek out everything and everyone that might be of interest and value. Don’t stick within your specific business, category or sector. Embrace the ‘what ifs?’ Pep regularly makes use of the parallels between football and chess in analysing opponents
  3. Have conviction in what you’re doing. The point here is to define a destination and believe you will reach it. There will be backward steps. Things may have to get worse before they get better. But, equally, conviction doesn’t mean blind faith. Self-belief must be accompanied by self-awareness and self-criticism
  4. Be passionate in the way you communicate. Pep has to fire the hearts and minds of a squad in which six languages are spoken. Unsurprisingly, while an accomplished linguist, he resorts also to gestures. In business, being passionate has become a bit of a cliché but when it’s personal, palpable and communicated credibly, it still works brilliantly
  5. Be willing to love. Pep seems to love his players, wearing his heart on his sleeve. Contrarily, most leaders focus on how employees think and behave, with less attention paid to their feelings. Recent research, however, featured in the January-February 2016 Harvard Business Review, shows that emotions significantly influence employees’ decision making, work quality and loyalty. Emotional culture, therefore, can play a key role in motivating teams and reaching goals (and scoring them!)
  6. Question everything. This is familiar territory. Never stop asking questions, directed at others but also yourself. Sign up for lifelong learning. In that way success can result from doubts as well as certainties
  7. Never feel satisfied. Pep normally allows himself five minutes to celebrate a victory. After that it’s on to the preparation for the next match which he conducts meticulously. In my experience, the most enlightened individuals and businesses are also the most restless
  8. Be vulnerable. What? An alpha male with a permanent three-day growth and an unfeasibly large wrist watch showing vulnerability?! Yes, this degree of empathy, even occasionally revealing flaws, helps create special rapport and trust. And you can still hate losing
  9. Dress appropriately. Pep pays attention to his appearance. It’s less about vanity, more about respect. A suit for games makes it clear how highly he values what for him are the highpoints of the week. Despite the general dressing down in business, this can still be relevant. How we dress forms part of the impression we make

There is perhaps one major omission from this list. It reads rather like the ‘genius with a thousand helpers’ model, lacking specific reference to the importance of surrounding yourself with good people who get it and can support you instinctively and productively.

For a year when again strategy will need to be highly flexible, Jim Collins’ people-focussed mantra of ‘first who…then what’ will be pertinent and Pep will certainly need good people around him when he tackles the Premiership. To that end we can look forward to studying the Pep effect more closely when he joins Manchester City later in 2016.

Or Chelsea? ‘Please not them’.