We can all think of great leaders; Nelson Mandela, Jack Welch, Thomas Jefferson. These men built teams around them. We consider leaders to be special individuals, but few succeed without support along the way.
It’s the same for entrepreneurs. You expect to lead in your markets, but you cannot do it without investment in your learning and development. Every entrepreneur who makes it has had to work with others during their journey.
I’ve long considered the All Blacks to be exemplary teachers in the leadership game. The New Zealand team won the last two Rugby World Cups and has held the number one position in the World Rugby Rankings (started in 2003) longer than all other teams combined. Its percentage for winning test match rugby is in the high seventies. The All Blacks is the only international team with a winning record against every single one of the teams it has played.
It takes effort and humility to work as a team. By doing so, the All Blacks have built a reputation for being leaders in their field. It doesn’t mean that they win every match of course, but the way in which they operate shows how much each member of the team is trained to lead himself. James Kerr explains the All Blacks’ method in his book, Legacy – you can see the 15 tips he has picked up here.
Nothing the All Blacks do is left to chance. Even the legendary Haka, the Maori battle-posture dance they perform at the start of each game, is carefully choreographed and rehearsed. As Maori All Black Joe Royal says, though the All Blacks form a triangle shape for the Haka, each member of the team is important - whatever his shape or size.
The team lives by a number of mottos, here's just two that every entrepreneur should consider adopting:
Think of the whole team, especially the weakest
When we start out on an entrepreneurial journey, a new project or join a new team, it can feel daunting. The All Blacks are taught to consider the weakest, to think of new members when they join the team.
After a game, each player – even the team captain – cleans out the changing room. Entrepreneurs gain confidence and help reduce their own stress when they feel they have people supporting them who they can confide in.
It must be awe -inspiring to be a first-time All Blacks player, but the team’s grounding technique must soon make the new boys feel comfortable. If you are comfortable you can perform better. Stress is something that successful entrepreneurs and sports teams need to address, but this doesn’t always happen.
Constantly improve your game
Entrepreneurs need to question their methods and seek out those who challenge them. As soon as they hit a level of achievement, they need to change gear and scale up. We all need to understand our weaknesses and work on them, while appreciating our strengths.
All Black legend Dan Carter is considered to be one of the best players of all time. He always kicked the ball with his stronger left foot. In his last All Blacks appearance in 2015 at the Rugby World Cup final, Carter had to score a conversion. A conversion in rugby is a kick at the goal.
The eyes of the world were upon him. It had been a dream of his to score with his weaker, right foot, and he had practised a little in training. It was a crucial moment for his team, but he confidently took the risk.
Carter put himself on the line and kicked the conversion with his right foot, successfully picking up two points for his team.
The All Blacks have been so successful over the years and this article goes a little way in exploring why. It all comes down to some surprising aspects of leadership they apply in their relationships with each other – as well as with themselves.