Lessons in Leadership from The All Blacks


I don’t often do book reviews, I certainly haven’t done one on this blog, but a book which blew me away and I couldn’t put down was “Legacy” by James Kerr. Thanks to Dan Cossins (England Athletics National Coach Mentor – Speed) for recommending it. Head across to Dan’s website and have a look…

Anyway, back to the book. What better source to get lessons on leadership than from the most successful sports team in history?

In this part one of three I’ll cover the first five chapters. James and photojournalist Nick Danziger had the privilege of spending five weeks in the All Blacks camp to find out what made the most successful sporting team on the planet work. The book outlines 15 lessons in leadership which can be applied to business and life not just sport. Here are some of the chapter titles and a peek at the lessons they offer:

1. Sweep the sheds

Before leaving the dressing room at the end of the game, some of the most famous names in world rugby – including Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Mils Muliaina – stop and tidy up after themselves. They literally and figuratively ‘sweep the sheds’.

Former All Black Andrew Mehrtens describes it as an example of personal humility, a cardinal All Blacks value.

Though it might seem strange for a team of imperious dominance, humility is core to their culture. The All Blacks believe that it’s impossible to achieve stratospheric success without having your feet planted firmly on the ground.

2. Go for the Gap

When you’re on top of your game, change your game. It’s very easy to see life, business, success or society as a linear progression of constant growth and improvement, the truth is that it is cyclical with three distinct phases. These phases are The Learning Phase where we can experience a dip in performance; The Growth Phase, where the learning from the previous phase is embedded and success starts to happen.

Unfortunately most don’t see or refuse the next phase and fail to adapt to it until it’s too late. This is the Decline Phase. The most successful teams (sports and business) recognise this process and when they’re on top of the game, they change their focus, and are usually the leaders and pioneers in their areas of expertise – outwitting the inevitable.

3. Play with Purpose

This one is simple: Why do you do what you do? Define that and when things get tough, remembering why, your purpose for starting and doing will usually carry you through. What do you stand for? What principles define your foundation? Consider these Loyalty, Integrity, Respect, Work Ethic, Enjoyment and under pinned by Excellence!

4. Pass the Ball

Leaders create leaders. Leaders create leaders by passing on responsibility, creating ownership, accountability and trust. Shared responsibility means shared ownership. A sense of inclusion means individuals are more willing to give themselves to a common cause. If you don’t get the ‘buy in’ from your team, yes you can be successful, but you can be so much more successful with a team around you.

Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders. Language is pivotal to winning, language sets the mental and the physical frame for success or winning… A team of “followers” is immediately on the back foot. A team of leaders steps up and fins a way to win. Arm your subordinates with intent…then get out of the way!

5. Create a Learning Environment

Never stop learning. create an environment where your team wants to learn and develop. Leaders are learners! Leaders are teachers… Cumulative changes of 1% make a lot of difference when all added together. We are motivated by purpose, autonomy and a drive towards mastery. Accomplished leaders create an environment in which their people can develop their skills, knowledge and character.

Look beyond your own field of expertise to discover new approaches, learn best practices and push the margins…then they pass on what they have learned.

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