The Long Game. Lessons in Leadership from CEO of Brighton & Hove Albion FC, Paul Barber’s 

The Long Game. Lessons in Leadership from CEO of Brighton & Hove Albion FC, Paul Barber’s 

There’s a ‘touch’ of football chat here but stick with me. As stories go, CEO of Brighton & Hove Albion FC Paul Barber’s is a compelling one. As a leadership coach and author, (and a lifelong Brighton fan) I find Paul’s journey inspiring but also rich with lessons for leaders and founders. His career underscores a vital truth: there is no such thing as an overnight success.

Here’s the path he took (well, a shortened version of it):

Paul’s love for football began at the age of seven, nurturing a dream to become a professional player. Although he soon realised he lacked the talent for professional play, his passion for the game never waned. Instead, it fuelled his ambition to remain involved in football in any capacity he could. His career trajectory from working with blue-chip financial organisations like Barclays to pivotal roles within football, including his tenure as the Director of Marketing for the FA during the David Beckham era, showcased his versatile skill set and adaptability.

One of the most transformative chapters in Paul’s career began in 2012 when he joined Brighton & Hove Albion FC as CEO. At the time, Brighton was still in the Championship, but under Paul’s leadership and the visionary ownership of Tony Bloom, the club achieved what many might perceive as an ‘overnight success’. However, as Paul’s story vividly illustrates, this success was 7-8 years in the making.

I’ll get to my point. Brighton’s journey to the Premier League and its continued success therein, including competing in European Football, are testament to the importance of sticking to your values and being clear about your vision – whatever field you’re in. 

As far as I can see, Paul’s leadership emphasises several crucial lessons applicable to leaders across all domains:

  1. The Importance of Vision and Values: Underpinning Brighton’s ascent was a clear vision and strong values, articulated by Tony Bloom and meticulously implemented by Paul and his team. For businesses, the takeaway is clear: Know where you’re headed and ensure your team is aligned with your core values.
  2. Building and Evolving Infrastructure: Brighton’s investment in top training facilities and stadium upgrades were gradual yet strategic moves that paid off in the long term. Ever leader should remember that building a solid foundation and being willing to evolve is crucial for sustained success.
  3. Navigating Challenges with Resilience: The path to the Premier League was fraught with challenges, including missed promotions and the need to compete against clubs with significant financial power. Paul’s resilience and strategic acumen—seen in data-driven recruitment and creating opportunities for player sales—highlight the need for leaders to be adaptable and resilient (and hire and fire well)
  4. Ignoring the Noise: Maintaining focus amidst external pressures and distractions is a challenge leaders face regardless of their field. Paul’s ability to stay focused on the club’s vision and mission, despite media and fan “noise”, is a lesson in maintaining course in turbulent times.
  5. Embracing Continuous Improvement: Despite reaching the Premier League and achieving remarkable success, Paul and the Brighton team remain committed to continuous improvement, aiming for top positions not just in the Premier League but also in the Women’s Super League. This relentless pursuit of excellence is something all leaders can aim for. 

A story of a young football enthusiast to a celebrated CEO in one of the most competitive leagues in the world is a powerful reminder of the value of passion, perseverance, and principled leadership. 

I learnt all this on the The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer, if you’re a sports fan then give it a listen. 

Love it. 



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