After watching the English rugby team put in yet another miserable performance on Saturday, losing to France and failing to progress past the quarter finals in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, I was reminded of one of the demonstrably great leaders of our time, Vince Lombardi who once said “In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”
I doubt anyone would ever agree that the England RWC 2011 campaign was a “great attempt”. The whole of England’s campaign felt like it was an uphill battle where the management, the team, the coaches, everyone saw winning the competition as an impossible task. To quote Vince Lombardi once again; “if you can accept losing, you can’t win.”
Imagine the effect this attitude would have on your business. One of the first, and most difficult, lessons I had to learn on my path to becoming a leader was that in every team there are always several leaders, each with their own goals to achieve and methods of motivating others. True leaders recognise them and help them to grow. Great leaders know that their success lies in ensuring the people around them are successful as they strive to meet a common goal.
Moving back to the England rugby team, Martin Johnson was appointed team manager based on his prowess and performance as a player. He had zero management experience and, throughout his tenure so far, appears to have had little support to help grow and develop that experience. It is no wonder that he wasn’t able to build a team and motivate it. He clearly doesn’t understand that he needs to surround himself with strong people and strong leaders, both on and off the field. A rugby team needs a pack leader, a midfield general and someone marshalling and controlling the backs. I can’t name a single stand-out player that stepped up and took control. To cap it all, Lewis Moody, the team Captain, appointed by Johnson was almost a deaf-mute while on the field.
Vince Lombardi also said that unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. For Martin Johnson the attempt was so far beyond his experience, his appointment was a mistake. He was set up to fail.
I can’t say that my career has been without mistakes. I too have on occasion appointed the wrong person in a pivotal role… but I have learnt from my mistakes. Will the English Rugby Football Union do the same?
Strong teams come from a set of common behaviours… doing it right, making great decisions, working together and driving for results. Thankfully, I am not in Martin Johnson’s shoes. I have a great team around me which, of course, presents a whole different set of challenges… retention, personal development and expansion… all without destroying the carefully balanced culture!