by Tim Reed, CEO of MYOB
As the Wallabies battle their way through the ‘pool of death’ in this year’s Rugby World Cup, every aspect of the team’s performance will be analysed. As well as the final result on the scoreboard, the carries, the tackles, the unforced errors, and the advantage-line breaks have all become an essential part of how each game is assessed.
However, arguably one of the most critical elements of the game is the one that the statisticians can’t measure: leadership. Yet without this defining factor, it will be impossible for Stephen Moore and his team to lift the Webb Ellis trophy.
Despite all the preparation, the player development, and the training, the qualities of leadership – or failures in it – only tend to reveal themselves on the field. Good leadership becomes evident in the team’s ability to sustain and soak up pressure, to make the right calls and communicate well, and have the character and courage to tough it out for the full 80, even when they are behind on the scoreboard.
The same goes in business, where every decision made in the executive office or boardroom is only truly tested when the product or service reaches the customer.
So what do Australian businesses have to learn from the characteristics of leadership we see in the Wallabies?
Selection is everything – a great team is put together like a puzzle, with skills and abilities that are both complementary and overlapping. Modern rugby lore contends that if you have three or four of the best players in the world in key positions, the Cup is yours for the taking. But on any given day, a skilled and focused team playing with heart and commitment can overturn world leaders – just ask Eddie Jones’ Japan.
Match fit – like the Cup, success in business isn’t a short run affair but a long campaign. In order to ensure their teams have the stamina to cope with each task, good leaders work with every member to provide the training and resources to go the distance.
Pick your specialists – the modern game has a major focus on specialist roles, with coaching teams working on every element of play, from scrummaging to kicking. In each position, individual specialists can set the game alight or create a dynamic impact off the bench. Strong playmakers are an asset for any business too – provided they are playing for the team, and not themselves.
Empower the team – if the Captain gets a yellow card (yes, we’re looking at you, Richie McCaw) the other senior players have to step into the role. Empowering a team to make decisions and take responsibility is a key part of success, spreading the opportunities for anyone to spot an advantage and help the whole organisation capitalise on it.
The Captain’s call – take the three points or kick for the corner? It’s one of the times the captain has to truly step up, assess the team’s capabilities and the strategic position at that moment, and send a message about how the rest of the game will be played. In business, the one thing that sets great leaders apart is just that: they lead. They’re not afraid to take the big calls, make decisions and try to create opportunities, even in extra time.
Exceptional leaders inspire great teams to achieve excellent results. And the quality of leadership is a vital measure for any team aiming to become world champions.