What can the RBS 6 nations tell us about leadership and management techniques?

What can the RBS 6 nations tell us about leadership and management techniques?

Written by Michael O'Flynn - Professional Academy Sales & Marketing Manager.

When watching the fantastic (if slightly disappointing from a personal view) RBS six nations tie between Ireland and Wales this weekend I saw a conversation between Keith Wood, Shane Williams and Martyn Williams about the styles of captaincy in the Welsh team which led me to think about management styles in the work place.

This stuck in my mind throughout the weekend and I very much feel 3 of the leadership styles that were seen on the field this Saturday (along with one that was sorely missed) can be seen in the wide array of management styles currently active in various companies across the UK and Europe (These may also be present internationally but cultural difference may change certain things so I am sticking to what I know).

First of all let me say, having played team sports through most of my life from around the age of 4-5, is that all sport can breed excellent leaders, as well as self-centred prima donnas. It was coming into rugby at the age of around 9 that I started to develop as a leader myself not only when wearing the captains arm band but leadership as part of a team: picking up the player next to you; organising a line; respect for authority (whether it be the coach or the referee); not letting your head drop; and being gracious in victory as well as defeat – all these skills were ingrained to me at a young age when playing the sport and I am very grateful for that. So I see the merits of Rugby and how it has moulded myself and other captains I have seen over the years. Which brings me back to the conversation between the two Welsh legends, the Irish legend lovingly known as Uncle Fester and the always delightful Gabby Logan about captaincy styles.

Below is a summation of their thoughts about different leadership styles with my interpretations on how these would map across to the working world:

Sam Warburton - The Quiet, Calm, Conduit.Sam Warburton – The quiet, calm, conduit.

Sam Warburton is the current (and most capped) Wales Captain, in the grand scheme of things a rather young Captain being just 26 years of age, but all 3 of the studio team commented on Warburton’s calmness and composure under pressure and criticism as well as his ability to act as conduit between the players and Wales coach Warren Gatland, listening to their concerns and passing them to the management team. His composure was unwavering even when he was sent from the field for a team offence in the 27th minute (a series of warnings for not rolling away were made, but Warburton was the unlucky person to be involved in the final one when the ref decided to make an example). There was no argument from Warburton just composure as he left for the bench and the same when he came back to head a heroic Welsh defensive line.

We can see this management style across many sectors, the team leader who acts as intermediary for the team and the senior management/directors, listening to the concerns of the workforce, taking on their concerns and allowing them to focus on their day-to-day tasks, never flustered and always calm. A great character trait to have in this role and one that will give the manager a real empathy for team dynamics and morale as they progress in their career.

Alun Wyn Jones - The Big Loud MotivatorAlun Wyn Jones – The big, loud intimidator.

Now first let me say this was not meant in a mean or nasty way, as often an intimidator can be, but more of a nod to the difference in style between Jones and Warburton when it comes to getting the best out of the team. Jones will wear the captains arm band when Warburton is unavailable and is known for delivering dressing room speeches and roaring at the team on the field to get the most out of each player. He is a respected captain and often touted to take the place of Warburton but this management style may not fit a team hierarchy off the field as much as it will fire the team up on it.

This leadership style can often be the most prominent in an office environment due to the very nature of the style and also the self determination of that kind of person. This management style can fire a team up and allow people to be pushed to their potential but it is a slightly more stressful and less open environment than the previous style.

Paul O'Connell the selfless, stubborn perfectionistPaul O’Connell – The selfless, stubborn perfectionist.  

Once again not a criticism, but Keith Wood described Paul O’Connell as a “Pain in the neck, demanding his own way” when he arrived in the Ireland camp 100 caps ago but as Keith Wood also commeted that “10 years later, he [O’Connell] was right” along with highlighting that everything he does “makes the other players look great” which is the real base of O’Connell’s leadership style. For those who don’t follow rugby O’Connell is 35 years old and will play every second of a match giving 100% and dragging the entire team with him if he has to. He pushes everyone to the same level he expects of himself, which delivers results on the field but also off the field in training and pre/post match preparation/analysis.

Management styles like this are rare because they grow slowly. The type of person who hones these traits   is team focused and can often drive team results with no real focus on the individual himself. Selfless managers/leaders are usually the ones you will find working outside the hours of 9 to 5, pushing for the result they feel they should achieve, setting a higher bar than others may have or expect.

Ireland were missing a certain leadership type in this particular game - and anyone with any interest in Rugby will already know where I am leading with this - and that would be the creative manager, a manager who has that spark that can turn a situation from bad to good and motivate the team through actions.  I am, of course, talking about Brian O’Driscoll…

Brian O'Driscoll - the creative thinking leaderBrian O’Driscoll – The creative thinking manager. 

Brain O’Driscoll had (probably still has but he has now retired from the game) a great rugby brain. Even when his body was slowing his mind was still as fast as could be, allowing him to think two steps ahead. This ability allowed him to create something out of nothing which would inspire the team to step up their performance from one individual act of brilliance.

You can see this leadership and management style throughout entrepreneurs and small companies where the manager/owner/director is not only in charge of a team of people but also a creative influence on the company. For example, if the sales were bad in a particular month this type of manager would talk to the sales team and brain storm ideas, get to the root of the issue and even get into the trenches and make the one deal that would spur the team on to turn results around.

Now these are just my opinions but I feel even in my sporting and working life I have seen all four of these captain and manager types, all of which have done great jobs and had failings equally. But I found the comparisons interesting and would love to hear your thoughts on this over on the Professional Academy Twitter Feed. Have you experienced these type of managers? Can you think of any other comparisons? I am also aware I haven’t mentioned Sergio Parisse, Chris Robshaw, Greig Laidlaw or Thierry Dusautoir so please let me know what you feel on their leadership styles and if you have seen them in your workplace.

If you would be interested in developing you Management & Leadership techniques (rugby experience not needed) why not look into the CMI Management & Leadership qualifications available through Professional Academy. For more information please feel free to download our latest CMI Management & Leadership Qualifications Prospectus or contact us through your medium of choice today.