“Whakapapa” means to plant trees you’ll never see by being a good ancestor … 15 leadership lessons from the All Blacks rugby team

January 14, 2020

Legacy is one of the most motivating topics for business leaders. What will you leave behind? What is your purposeful contribution to others that follow you?

In James Kerr’s book Legacy he explains how the methods of the All Blacks rugby team have developed an extraordinary high-performance culture and provide an inspiring and effective model for leaders in other fields.

Here are some of the best quotes :

  • “A collection of talented individuals without personal discipline will ultimately and inevitably fail.”
  • “Character triumphs over talent.”
  • “A sense of inclusion means individuals are more willing to give themselves to a common cause.”
  • “The first stage of learning is silence, the second stage is listening.”
  • “High-performing teams promote a culture of honesty, authenticity and safe conflict.”
  • “If we’re going to lead a life, if we’re going to lead anything, we should surely know where we are going, and why.”
  • “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

15 lessons for business leaders:

  • Character – never be too big to do the small things that need to be done.
  • Character begins with humility. Performance = Capability + Behavior. A values- based, purpose-driven culture is a foundation of the All Blacks’ approach and sustained success.
  • Adapt – when you’re on top of your game, change your game. Make a case for change, provide a compelling picture of the future, sustain the capability to change, and create a credible plan to execute.
  • Purpose – ask ‘Why?’ Create an environment that stimulates others and influences them to want to take part in it.
  • Responsibility – leaders create leaders by passing on responsibility, creating ownership, accountability and trust.
  • Learn – leaders are teachers and learners. Create an environment that delivers the opportunity for personal growth and professional development.
  • Whanau – follow the spearhead. A flock of birds flying in formation is 70 percent more efficient than flying solo. One of the first steps in developing a high performance culture is to select on character.
  • Expectations – aim for the highest cloud. We learn best – and change – from hearing aspirational stories that resonate with us.
  • Preparation – practice under pressure to enable self-trust and enable the abilities to maintain clarity, situational awareness, accurate analysis, and good decision-making. Pressure – control your attention. Bad decisions are not made through a lack of skill or innate judgment. They are made because of an inability to handle pressure at the pivotal moment.
  • Authenticity – keep it real through a strong identity and trust in the sense of safe vulnerability while exercising honesty and integrity.
  • Sacrifice – find something you would die for and giver your life to it.
    Language – sing your world into existence. We are meaning making machines, interpreting and reinterpreting a sequence of events into a narrative form and reassembling at will.
  • Ritual – create a culture. Ritualize to actualize by telling your story, involving your people, and creating a legacy while making the intangible real.
  • Whakapapa – plant trees you’ll never see by being a good ancestor.
  • Legacy – this is your time to make a purposeful contribution.


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