I wanted to start my blog with my first experience of leadership and the impact it had on me, my beliefs and the start of the definition of my own leadership philosophy.
It might seem hard to believe but my first experience and what I believe to be one on my defining experiences happened around the age of 10.
At this time I played for the school rugby team, we weren’t very good and finished mid table with as many defeats as victories. Surprisingly though, we had somehow managed to get through to the local cup final courtesy of an easy set of opponents.
In the final we were to play a team that we had played twice previously, who were already league champions, and who had beaten us 15-0 in the first game and 35-5 in the second game.
When it came to the final our coach told us that this game was different, we were a cup team and the league results didn’t matter, in fact they were irrelevant. He said we had a big advantage, the other team were going to expect to win, they thought they knew how we would play but we were going to come up with a new game plan, one that they wouldn’t expect.
For myself, I was given specific instructions, the coach told me that I wasn’t a creative player, but in this game I was to be key. I was to be a destroyer, my job along with my partner would be to focus on one thing and one thing alone, and that was to stand opposite their star player and every time he got the ball to just absolutely flatten him. Nothing else was important, I was to just, as quickly as possible, cut down his space and stop him from playing, I was to reserve all my energy for just this one task.
The coach told me that I would have played a great game if, every time that player touched the ball I stopped him dead.
Others too were given specific instructions, it was all part of a collective game plan.
Right from the start of the game every player followed the instructions he had been given. For my part I harried, hurried and tackled their star player every time he got anywhere near the ball. This was a complete surprise to our opponents, they were expecting an easy game and our approach knocked them out of their usual rhythm, it caused them to start to make some simple elementary mistakes. We scored early two early touchdowns, which not only spurred us on, but you could visibly see the other teams heads drop. We gave them no space, we didn’t let them play their game, we dictated the pace, we controlled everything.
Of course, they were the better team and as the game wore on and as we tired from our high energy approach, they started to get back into the game, they did score late on but it wasn’t enough and we managed to hold on and win 6-3.
This was a huge shock result.
What i learnt from that was that, if you can take away doubt, build confidence, create a plan which the team believe in and get some early success, then the teams can actually achieve what what previously thought to be beyond them.
This also taught me that its not always the best team that wins, sometimes its the best prepared team.
And finally, when some things feel impossible it might just be the approach your using, so look at alternative approaches, don’t persist with approaches you know won’t succeed.