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The Klopp Factor

Some people cannot live life in a half-hearted manner.

It seems that whatever Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp does is 100%.

“To be a believer, but not to want to talk about it — I do not know how it would work!” (Jurgen Klopp talking about the roots of his Christian faith)

It was Bill Shankly who famously replied to the question, “Is football a matter of life and death?” with, “No it’s more important than that”. Football is for some people a religion of sorts. Think of the words:

“We must turn from doubters to believers”.

Those were some the first words spoken by Jurgen Klopp to the crowd from the iconic Anfield pitch on his first day as Manager of Liverpool on 8th October 2015. Less than five years later the team, having won the European Champions League, has now also won the League title for the first time in thirty years.

Klopp does not hide his feelings. It is obvious when he is disappointed and it is unmistakable when he excited. Unusually for a football manager he is able to be honest about his team’s shortcomings and generous about the strengths of rivals. I guess this comes from Klopp being happy inside his own skin.

Football managers, leaders and pastors can be so insecure that they preach sermons that produce insecure ingrown churches.

“He’s your friend but he’s not your best friend” — Dejan Lovren November 2015

The former Liverpool player highlights a vital feature of the Klopp style, knowing how to combine intimacy and distance. Klopp makes people feel special. It could be argued that every player at Liverpool has improved under his leadership. Yet it is leadership. Critical distance and crucial intimacy are a winning combination.

Preachers sometimes have to say hard, challenging and unpopular things. It is important at such times that a congregation knows that the preacher loves them. This is what allows them to say that pertinent word which can lead to change.

In Klopp I can see the following qualities that are worth emulating:

Contextualised approach that sees similarities and differences.

The actor David Morrissey, speaking on the radio after the news of the title win, said that Klopp “got the team and the city”.

“I love the scouse soul. I love the way they love life. They are different” — Jurgen Klopp quoted in the Guardian 27 June 2020

Clear communication of ideas.

One of the things that always impresses me when I hear Klopp speak is that he knows how to communicate to the people in front of him. It is about thinking carefully about what it means to communicate clearly in your particular context. It is not always what we say that matters, but what people hear.

Considered meticulous preparation.

“Patience, trust and hard work: how a ‘lucky b*******’ pulled it off. Effectiveness in any realm is never accidental it always involves lots of hard work.” — Jurgen Klopp quoted in the Guardian 27 June 2020.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” — (2 Timothy 2: 15)

Compassionate and warm personality

Preachers need to be a genuine human being. People warm to authenticity and value the human touch. No one wants engraved on their tombstone the words:

“Born a man died a preacher!”

Former Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre said of Klopp on that day:

“Everything is natural. Nothing is made up. He doesn’t do anything for effect. He is naturally engaging. He raises the energy level in a room when he walks in…

He is big and imposing. He is a hugger. All these things he does because it is natural to him. He doesn’t think, ‘I’m going to hug the staff and the players’. He does it because he cares for these people. That is who Jurgen Klopp is. He just fits perfectly.”

Klopp reminds me again of Augustine’s advice to preachers, borrowed from Cicero, that preaching should: “Teach, delight and persuade.”

If preachers are to turn doubters into believers. they could do worse than take a leaf out of Klopp’s book.

“Preachers … cultivate the imagination for three primary reasons: to empathize, integrate, and envision. The practice of imaginative thinking enriches our ability to touch the depths of the human soul with holy wonder and grace” (Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, Thomas H. Troeger, A Sermon Workbook: Exercises in the Art and Craft of Preaching (pp.44). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.)

Klopp seeks to understand the value of seeking to empathize, integrate, envision.

Preachers, do you?

We will not reach people without this delicate human touch.

Photo by Ajay Meganathan on Unsplash

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