What is Gareth Southgate’s Personality Style?

One of the strengths of Gareth Southgate is that he seems authentic – he is being himself, not trying to mimic the style of other football managers.  So how does he come across?

He is quietly spoken, speaks in a calm and measured way, pauses for thought before answering questions, appears reflective, is patient with media questions and often looks serious.  His body language is quite contained (except during goal celebrations), he often keeps his hands in his pockets and he strides out deliberately as if he knows where he is going, but isn’t in a hurry.  At matches, he wears a waistcoat which gives a sense of formality and control to his appearance.

His outward appearance suggests the Navigator style.  But is this hypothesis backed up by what he says and does, and what are his likely inner drives and stressors?

Southgate’s behaviour suggests a preference for introversion (more inner focus) over extraversion (more outer focus), which fits with Navigator.  When he dislocated his shoulder, he was out running “as this helps me think”.  He announced the team for the first match several days in advance, so that the selected players could be mentally prepared.  He doesn’t say much to the team before a match, as when he played, he wanted to focus before the game and not be distracted by a pep talk.

Southgate places a lot of importance on having a plan: “the first thing is to have a really clear understanding of how we want to play….it’s important that everyone knows their individual roles….stick to your principles, whatever the state of the game” (Guardian newspaper, 18th June).  He has also emphasised the importance of practising set pieces in training (which have resulted in several goals).  After the match against Panama, (which England won 6-1), Southgate said he had not been happy with how the team had started and ended the match, as it wasn’t part of the plan.  Having a course of action laid out in advance is the core of Southgate’s managerial style. This also fits the Navigator hypothesis.  This means that a likely stressor for him is not knowing what is going to happen.


Why does his style matter?

Southgate’s style is working for him and the team at the moment.  But there are some potential pitfalls of this style, especially relating to his likely inner drives and stressors, which he will need to manage.

Southgate’s navigator style, with the drive for having a course of action and sticking to it, could lead to difficulties if the plan isn’t working.  The real test for the England team in a match will be whether Southgate can be flexible when required – is he willing to change the plan if it isn’t working?  Does he have a back up plan?  And can that be communicated quickly to the players on the pitch?

Furthermore, can he manage the inner stress he will feel if the plan doesn’t work?  How will he manage the emotions of fight or flight which can kick in if he feels under threat?  Can he remain calm and rational and make quick decisions under time pressure?  Thinking this challenge through in advance is the most important preparation he can do for the next match.

Good luck to him and the team!