Day 30: Leadership Lessons From Lancaster

Yesterday Stuart Lancaster was officially announced as the next coach for the elite England rugby squad. I’ve written before about Lancaster so far in this one year blogging challenge (Day 11) and I’m sure I’ll write about him again. I find him intriguing as his leadership style (from an outsider’s point of view) differs so hugely to that of his mightily authoritative World Cup winning predecessor, Martin Johnson, but still seems to carry a quiet air of assurance about him. In his short time as interim coach, there are quite a few things that we can learn from the former PE teacher.

Image from Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport)

This diagram, reportedly used in his Lancaster’s post-Six Nations tournament shows all of the things that he feels will lead the team to victory in the time leading up to, and at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. I believe that many of these things can transfer to any team. I’d be very surprised if anyone has been a part of an unhappy team environment where the factors along the bottom row have been fulfilled. I find this incredibly challenging – am I always enthusiastic within a team? Am I always positive and overflowing with team spirit? I find this to be a great reminder that individuals within a team really do make a big difference. Take the second row; it’s no easy feat to manage the tension between self-belief and a balanced ego.

Even within a worship team context, this diagram can be transformational. Whilst there are factors that simply don’t apply in the same way, such as toughness and fitness, there are other factors that are absolutely vital. A rugby team has ‘set plays’ – strategies and moves that they will incorporate into their game at certain points to try and reach their goal…a win. However, if a rugby team sticks rigidly to a game plan that isn’t working and don’t show decisive decision making on the field, they will simply miss their opportunity and lose the game. Similarly, in our worship team, we almost always approach the allotted time of worship with ‘set songs’ that the worship leader has prepared with the aim of leading people into the presence of God. It’s not simply a case of picking ‘good songs’; much time is spent on trying to create a ‘worship journey’ – to help us turn our eyes towards the glory of God. But very rarely do we simply follow the ‘script’ from beginning to end. The Holy Spirit often leads the worship in a different direction and the worship team must be comfortable with quick decision making in order to serve the congregation well and glorify God appropriately. We also need to remember that we are part of a worship team…team spirit is of paramount importance! In a worship team, it isn’t about who sings what song or who gets to play the guitar solo. It’s about whether people either in the congregation or at home are supported in their time with God.

I could go on. There is so much we could learn about teamwork from really analysing the diagram above. However, there are a few things about Stuart Lancaster’s time at the helm of the England squad that I want to highlight for today. They are pointers for all of us…especially me.

  • Lancaster put the team first. Rather than striving for results to better his chances of earning the full time position, he looked to create the best starting platform for the journey to the 2015 Rugby World Cup that he could. He even got the results as well…bonus!
  • Lancaster put character before gifting. He has suspended multiple players from the squads for poor off the field behaviour. He has risked sacrificing the short term quality of the squad in order to create a team of balanced egos that understand the influence they have on the younger generations and importantly, the reputation of the sport itself.
  • Lancaster put faith in inexperienced players. He picked nine un-capped players for his elite player squad – incredibly brave for an interim coach. We can see from how the players stepped up to the mark that with a little responsibility, the more inexperienced team members can flourish. People with inexperience can grow hugely with a little responsibilty, providing there are enough experienced members to keep the team on course and the inexperienced members are willing to be taught. It shows faith and trust which I think is incredibly empowering.
  • Lancaster consistently spoke well of everyone. The way we talk about people is crucial. Lancaster honoured his leaders throughout the interview process, spoke well of opposing teams and coaches at all times and whilst firm, remained supportive to disgraced players constantly. Some of the most influential leaders I know are the ones who refuse to be drawn into gossip or speak negatively of people. It’s a quality I’ve yet to master, but in my experience, people are drawn to that sort of integrity in a leader and usually more naturally inclined to be led by them

Once again, I could go on. As you’re probably aware, I’m quite the supporter of our new England head coach. I really hope he continues in the same vein as he began. I’m sure Stuart Lancaster can teach us a whole lot more if he does!

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One thought on “Day 30: Leadership Lessons From Lancaster

  1. I like Stuart Lancaster as well and agree with what you have writeen about him, his leadership and how we can learn to work like that in the teams we also work with….but more importantly to me is his high level of integrity….if someone has that then thats good enough for me

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