The end of a surprising week in the UK. Not that I was in the UK last week – I was in the mid-west through to Friday morning. I had a postal vote arranged though. My Friday back in the UK was its unusual mix of jet-lag and copious emails…there was more variation than normal in my emails…
The highlight of my week was Saturday. Late evening in Australia…late morning in the UK. England won. Rugby Union. Not European politics nor European soccer. England beat Australia at rugby. It was a significant and unexpected outcome.
Sports events are common analogies and metaphors. I try to avoid them. Sports analogies are black and white – they either work very well or they work very badly. They resonate or they irritate. The only worse analogies in my experience are military. I never use those.
Rugby analogies are different. If not only because rugby is my favourite sport and following England (through thin and thin) is my one illogical pastime. I dutifully – if not bizarrely – have multiple England rugby shirts…as was apparent last week when I could be seen each morning proudly wearing the current version…doing an embarrassing impersonation of a rugby player working out.
England beat Australia at rugby. An almost unheard of event. Three games to zero. A never heard of event. In Australia. An inconceivable event.
Eight months ago Australia beat England in the Rugby World Cup and in doing so eliminated England. So what had happened in those eight months? What momentous events caused such a change? One event – that’s all. They changed their leader. Nothing else.
Rugby involves a team of fifteen players, eight back up players, and one head coach – the leader. England changed only their leader and have never looked back. The players are the same players. Yet since changing their leader, they have become champions of Europe – for the first time in years – and have beaten Australia…in Australia…for the first time. Ever.
And all they have done is change their leader. Eight months. Unbelievable. I am as amazed as I am delighted. And intrigued. A team changes its leader and its fortunes are changed for the better completely – it’s the stuff of legends…and myths!
OK. So it may not be quite as simple as that. But the root cause is undoubtedly the Head Coach. The first thing the Head Coach did was to change what was – in effect – the leadership team. All the existing assistant coaches left and new ones were appointed. And the on field captain of the playing team was changed (although the old captain is still on the team).
The Head Coach and the Leadership Team have defined and communicated a new vision, have induced a new ethos (or culture) and have instilled a level of self-confidence and self-belief – team confidence and team belief – that is decidedly un-English.
A belief the team can achieve their vision. That they have the skills and understand how their progress will be measured. That they have the resources and have a detailed plan.
And their success is apparent.
Maybe it’s because of my jet-lag, but I still can’t believe what happened. We all know that leadership is important. We all feel good if we look up and see a leader. Someone who is advocating and defending, inspiring and compelling. We all worry if we look up and see anything less.
But such a change in performance…in such a short period of time…in my favourite team. I never would have dreamed it let alone predicted it. And I am inspired and compelled. I am in awe.
I have to understand…I need to learn…I want to apply.