Leadership Lessons from the Six Nations

With just two rounds of games to finish in the Six Nations Rugby Championships, the atmosphere is hotting-up, with a vital game looming this weekend between England and Wales that will heavily influence the final outcome of the tournament.

The England camp has made seen some significant changes. At the helm is the new coach Eddie Jones, an outspoken Australian. I believe that he has built a new team philosophy that is based upon three of the key factors associated with high performing teams: a motivational climate; setting high standards of performance; and building collaborative and cooperative relationships.

Interestingly, this has been done without significant changes to the team itself. After 3 games, England remain unbeaten. In the main, the same players that were chosen for the World Cup in 2015, where England disappointingly failed to progress beyond the initial Group stage on home soil, are now winning games. One could argue that the style of English play has not been that exciting, but they are winning.  So how has this happened? What can today’s business leaders learn from the charismatic Australian?

  1. Manage team morale and create a motivational climate

Jones appears to be bringing the England team is an increased level of self-belief. He is liked by the players and brings humour into the stressful environment of representing your country. The players are relaxing. I believe that Jones has told the players that England should be winning the 6 Nations Championship. He has told the players that they are the best team and not to underestimate their own ability. It’s as if he has brought a little bit of the ‘Australian’ winning mentality into the English squad. Maybe he has told the team to not be so ‘English’ and stop doubting themselves and their ability to win matches. The players feel that they are good enough to beat anyone, even if they are not playing at their best. Instilling confidence in your team is highly motivating. A great leadership trait.

  1. Set high standards of performance

Another shift in the style of the England team is the full adoption of the ‘22-man game’, not a ‘15-man game’. It is more evident than ever. Through the course of the 80 minutes, the 22 players in the squad, including all replacements, are used strategically – meaning that there is a balanced level of experience and skill amongst all the squad members. The team is not weakened at any point when a replacement comes off the bench and on to the pitch. High levels of performance are expected from the replacements. Players on the field have equal confidence that the new player coming onto the pitch will perform to exactly the same level as the person they have just replaced. Whether younger and inexperienced, or more mature and experienced, Jones has built a standard of performance amongst all the replacements that provides confidence to team-mates and supporters alike.

  1. Use opportunities to build collaborative and cooperative relationships

Jones has done a great job in building a collaborative environment between players as well as cooperative leadership relationships that drive team performance. He has delegated well and empowered a new Captain, Dylan Hartley, and his three Vice Captains to share the responsibility of leading the team on the pitch. Whilst not a new concept, these fresh leadership responsibilities have brought a new, strong dynamic to the team and are undoubtedly a factor in achieving increased levels of results.

As I say, we still don’t look the prettiest in our style of play, but this will develop as we build towards the next World Cup in 2019. Winning is more important at the moment. Good luck to England for this weekend’s game against a very good Welsh team.  Jones has started well as the new leader. He has introduced some strategies that are bringing about change. A lesson for us all.










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