This article was written by Megan McCormick, Rush Soccer’s Coach Education Consultant, for January’s Educational Campaign on Leadership.
New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks, have long been touted as one of the most successful organizations in the history of team sports. The subject of James Kerr’s book Legacy and Amazon Prime’s “All or Nothing” series, the All Blacks offer lessons in leadership that translate well beyond the rugby pitch. Both the book and docuseries offer intimate and rare looks at the inner workings of a team that has historically been incredibly secretive.
In his book, Kerr outlines 15 leadership lessons that he calls “The First XV” which summarize the culture of guiding principles in the All Black’s organization. There are some that many might find obvious including “Embrace Expectations: Aim for the highest cloud” and “Sacrifice: Find something you would die for and give your life to it”. In the clip below, Kerr summarizes some of the key messages from his book.
Among so many great lessons and guiding principles, there is one that really stands out to me as I reflect on 2020 and look to all the potential of 2021. Lesson XIV: Be a Good Ancestor: Plant trees you’ll never see. At the core of the All Blacks culture is the importance and sanctity of the jersey. Kerr explains that each player “is called to ‘leave the jersey in a better place…To ‘leave the jersey in a better place’ means to work incrementally towards a better collective outcome. It means to be a custodian of the future, an architect of tomorrow, a steward of society. It means to live with respect, humility and excellence.”
Amazon Prime’s binge worthy “All or Nothing” series brings the leadership lessons in Legacy to life. In the clip, Rieko Ioane explains dreaming of someday wearing the jersey and the honor that accompanies the opportunity. You can sense the reverence in his voice and almost feel the weight of responsibility that comes with wearing the jersey.
Kerr summarizes it so eloquently, “You don’t have to be an All Black, you don’t have to be Māori, to understand that, as a leader, you can carry the ball forward and pass it on to the next generation.” What a great thing to contemplate as we put 2020 in the rearview: how will my leadership this year leave the players, club, and game in a better place for the next generation?
“The First XV: Lessons in Leadership”
From Legacy by James Kerr:
I Sweep the Sheds: Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done.
II Go for the Gap: When you’re on top of your game, change your game.
III Play with Purpose: Ask “Why?”.
IV Pass the Ball: Leaders create leaders.
V Create a Learning Environment: Leaders are teachers.
VI No Dickheads: Follow the spearhead.
VII Embrace Expectations: Aim for the highest cloud.
VIII Train to Win: Practise under pressure.
IX Keep a Blue Head: Control your attention.
X Know Thyself: Keep it real.
XI Sacrifice: Find something you would die for and give your life to it.
XII Invent a Language: Sing your world into existence.
XIII Ritualize the Actualize: Create a culture.
XIV Be a Good Ancestor: Plant trees you’ll never see.
XV Write Your Legacy: This is your time.
Excerpts From: James Kerr. “Legacy.” Apple Books.