In the run-up to the release of Issue Eight on 4th March, we will be offering you a sneak peek at a couple of excerpts of articles from the forthcoming issue. First up is Blizzard debutant Roy Henderson, on José Mourinho and his ‘cult of personality’.
You can pre-order Issue Eight on a pay-what-you-like basis from as little as £6 (+P&P). It will be available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis from 11th March.
You see, on moving to Chelsea in 2004, José Mourinho had just about mastered the darkest of managerial arts — the construction of a textbook personality cult. Whether wholly conscious or not, I firmly believe it’s the central pillar of Mourinho’s methodology.
Let me explain myself.
A long established and ubiquitous term (Karl Marx made casual reference to it in a letter of 1877), “personality cult” broadly fits the sociologist Max Weber’s model of “charismatic authority” and describes the situation that develops when a compelling individual, in an auspicious context, establishes a public persona seductive enough that followers subjugate their individual reason and free will in favour of the will of their leader. A clear pattern emerges from there and the results aren’t always too healthy.
Mourinho artfully established himself as just that kind of charismatic leader, and his players, his staff, the national media, and to a great extent football at large found themselves hanging on his every word — a situation that persists to this day. When he arrived at Chelsea, he was the shepherd and we were simply his latest dutiful flock. By that stage, he’d already been refining his methods for some time.
The Basic Prototype
In modern times, you’d think it would be difficult to establish yourself as some kind of messiah. Scientific reason, a free press, human rights… there are all kinds of obstacles in place for the aspiring modern day despot. But we’re not nearly as collectively clever as we like to think.
Take Vernon Wayne Howell, for example. We know him better as David Koresh, the man who in 1993, along with 75 of his devoted followers (including 21 children), died in the fiery conclusion of an FBI siege in Waco, Texas. Illiterate and dyslexic, Koresh had suffered a lonely and directionless childhood. At the age of 11, however, the foundations were being laid for the man he would later become, developing an early taste for rumpy pumpy, and somehow memorising the entire New Testament. It seems from that point on he spent his time pestering Christian girls to ‘mate’.
After several years of mixed success in that regard, Koresh eventually found his way to Waco, where he stumbled upon an interesting, hospitable group known as the “Branch Davidians”.
Koresh had stumbled into control of his very own personality cult. The group found new premises, and he set about recruiting new followers using the standard personality cult toolset:
1 – Proclaim that you’re ‘special’ and that you have a vision.
2 – Define simple behavioural rules based on that vision.
3 – Enforce the behavioural rules by ensuring your followers buy into them.
4 – Make sure everything the group does relies on you.
Koresh’s idea of glorious martyrdom wasn’t the most sustainable of visions, of course, but his story, while tragic, illustrates the basic template for establishing a personality cult — a template similar to the one Mourinho had refined since first attempting its use during his brief stint with Benfica at the turn of the millennium.