Thoughts from a Life-Long Learner

Thoughts from a Life-Long Learner


“Ruling by fear or trying to motivate people by fear is long gone. It’s very much about trying to motivate people through love and not necessarily in the way that you would love your wife or girlfriend, but rather having a caring element.”

Stuart McLaren


Well it is official – The Culture of Leadership (TCoT) has become an international platform because today I have the pleasure of catching up with an old ‘footie mate’ who is currently living in Scotland. Stuart McLaren is the Scottish National Under 16’s Head Coach and even though he has a Scottish accent, he is a proud Australian and has the passport to prove it!


In today’s episode we are chatting to Stuart about coaching, mentoring, leadership and teamwork, focusing on lessons he has learnt during his 13-year career as a Football Coach with high performing elite athletes. Stuart is the Head Coach for both youth and senior professional football teams as well as a Coaching Mentor for Performance Academy Coaching at the Scottish Football Association.


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Stuart grew up in Central Queensland, mixing with the likes of Josh Rose and his lifelong dedication to football can be traced back to kicking a ‘footie’ behind the goal post with his cousin, while his Dad played on the field. It was while watching the World Cup on television that Stuart decided one day he was going to get paid to play football. He went on to play professionally by the age of 18. 


Stuart’s coaching career began as a player/manager for Brisbane Strikers in the Australian National Soccer League (NSL), a dual role in which he was nominated for Coach of the Year.


Although Stuart grew up in Australia he was born in Scotland and his coaching career now continues in this country where the football culture is embedded in history and tradition which, in Stuarts opinion, can hinder progress. On the other-hand, Stuart believes Australia enjoys a multicultural game and as a young Nation which is open minded, the sport of football operates with more balance.


As an under 16’s Coach, Stuart acknowledges he holds a privileged leadership position as he gets to work with the club’s youngest players. Stuart describes this as the “indoctrination period” where players are introduced to the performance and behavioural expectations as they are guided towards being a full time professional in the National Team. There is less pressure at this level as ‘winning the game’ is not always the deciding factor in terms of how you are measured for success.


Related Post: The Culture of Youth Development – Joey Peters


Stuart is also involved with the Coach Education Unit as a Tutor for UEFA Licensed Courses (think of it as a formal coach education pathway) as well as developing the mentor program with the heads of the relevant Children’s sections in the professional academies. The role of a mentor involves being a sounding board and offering support to the players within the academies.


As a Coach, Stuart is driven by a passion to help players excel within an environment where the players are aware that the club sets the culture but they, as individuals, are held accountable for the decisions they make.


Join us as we delve into:

  • The crucial qualities of an effective leader
  • What exactly is a players ‘Set of A’s’
  • The key to teamwork
  • The ‘Rule of Three’ designed for those determined to succeed in coaching.  


Stuart sums up his early leadership days with “what was I thinking” and refers to his now evolved leadership style as a lifelong learner. In this episode he openly shares his professional journey including the daily challenges and pressures of being a Football Manager in a professional environment.


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