#RWC2015 Lesson 6

#RWC2015 Lesson 6

The Rugby World Cup 2015 has given plenty of opportunities to learn lessons from sport and apply it business This week’s lesson is: Follow the Leader. We all know and (used to) love this children’s’ game where you stand in a line behind an elected “leader” who continues to do a variety of things while the rest of the line have to copy the leader’s moves.

Sport and business are much like this where the employees copy the behaviour of leaders and forms the organisational culture. In a conversation with 99fm in Namibia about workplace values we highlight the importance of the leadership in an organisation when it comes to creating culture. 

In the leadership development programme that we offer at Capacity Trust, a continuous theme is that of being visible as a leader. The behaviour of the leader needs to be intentional at all times. With the last few games of the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup now done and dusted, the impact of the leaders of their various teams could be seen clearly.

The clearest example of a leader who leads from the front is Michael Leitch of Japan. Their team won three games in the pool stages and automatically qualified for the next World Cup that Japan will host. However what we would like to focus on in this article is what happens when the leader is no longer there? The saying goes: “When the cat’s away the mouse will play.” Something that stood out during the closing rounds of the world cup pool stages, was the impact of the team’s captain when the captain was no longer on the field.

Three instances spring to mind. The first and most recent was Ireland vs France. The team that won this game has the luxury of not playing against the All Blacks (the reigning World Champions). When Irish Captain, Paul O’Connell, went off injured in the 40th minute, the Irish rallied and put their bodies on the line to beat the French and avoid the All Blacks.

The second instance is our own Namibia. When Jacques Burger went off the field with a suspected concussion and did not return, Namibia played out of their skins to gain their first ever Rugby World Cup point and lose with only one point. The third instance is the injury and retirement of Jean de Villiers of South Africa. When it was confirmed the Jean had broken his jaw the team came back in the next match and soundly beat Scotland.

There are several sources on the internet where you can learn how to be an inspirational leader, but in light of the examples from the World Cup discussed above, what characteristics do these leader have in common:

1.) Trust

The three team captains discussed above all have the complete and utter trust of their team members. Trust is something that is built up over time by being consistent in words and actions. Sharing of information with the team, trusting team members with certain responsibilities all create trust over time and these three captains have lots of it.

2.) Face Challenges

While their are several examples of facing sporting challenges that we can highlight from the examples of the Rugby World Cup, the challenges  in the workplace are sometimes more diffuse and obscure. Therefore leaders in organisations need to be clear in their focus on facing challenged. Anything from standing up to office gossip and rumours to taking on a rival service provider. Leaders who want to inspire their people need to face these challenges clearly.

3.) Be Authentic

Probably the most important point of the three items mentioned. The one characteristic that stands out with the leaders named above is their ability to be authentic. Jacques Burger, Jean de Villiers and Paul O’Connol all have clear and distinct personalities and visible character. None of them try to be someone who they are not. Jacques Burger for instance could have managed his career to play for either South Africa or England, but being authentic he chose the country he was born in. He did this knowing that he may never win a World Cup, Rugby Championship or Six Nations trophy, yet still he remained loyal and authentic.

Regularly living out these character traits one can easily learn to inspire their workforce to put in their discretional effort even when the leader is not there.