Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Leadership and Organizational Development

Urs Meier, former FIFA referee

Businessman, soccer expert on German television, former head of Swiss international referees.

Mr. Meier, what have you learned about leadership after nearly 900 professional matches as an independent referee? What experiences still help you today in your interactions with other people?

It taught me an awful lot, really. How to deal with different cultures, societies, with defeat and victory and mistakes, including my own. To identify character and recognize which players and people are fair and which ones aren‘t. To learn how to handle pressure. Not to take yourself too seriously. How important body language is. The list goes on. Being a referee is one of the best schools of life there is, period.

Which tips would you give managers in the business world when it comes to making decisions under pressure and implementing them?

I’d tell them not to sway under the pressure that builds up from the outside: instead, they should self-confidently apply their professional and personal abilities to make decisions and stand by them.

Refereeing is one of the best schools of life there is

Urs Meier, former FIFA referee

You clearly spoke out in favor of video replays, even though the current phase of this development is causing a great deal of turbulence among your colleagues. In the business world, people are turning more and more to technical support to take better decisions. In this era of big data, what should managers do to keep being accepted as a leader?

Video replay is really only an airbag to protect us from fatal crashes, if you will, but it can’t be used for every little fender-bender. The person in control has to keep their hands on the steering wheel and make decisions independently, because good “drivers” almost never need an airbag. What’s more, video footage should only be used in black-and-white decisions and not in cases that are gray, which happens a lot in the business world. In those situations, you need a real leader, someone who makes you sit up and pay attention.

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