June 3, 2015

Lessons from Lions

Lions Rugby

Watching the Lions win a hard-contested Super Rugby game against the Waratahs, 27–22, last Saturday was an absolute joy to watch.

Win or lose, every game the Lions play is a masterpiece. And, I don’t mean just for the brand of rugby they play, but for the ‘way’ they play the game.

Here’s a team that has no ‘superstars’ and has little chance of shaping in the Super Rugby competition, let alone making the playoffs. Yet, its now on the brink of getting a shot at the playoffs above teams that have astounding pedigrees, and the silverware to prove it.

I don’t know what the future will hold for the Lions. But, win or lose, they’re an example of what can be done when you get the recipe right and play the game in the right spirit.

I’ve picked up 4 themes that could be worth exploring:

  1. No judgement
  2. Set each other up to win
  3. Focus on process
  4. They live in joy

No Judgement

When any player makes a mistake and gives coach Johan Ackermann (and me) a heart attack, there’s no judgement. Another player will go up to the ‘culprit’ and give him words of encouragement. I suspect that there’s a ‘no-blame’ culture in the Lions that allows players to more freely express their individual talents. The players have been given permission to push the envelope and when they don’t pull it off, they see it as a learning experience.

Set Each Other Up To Win

This for me is the most endearing aspect of the Lions. You can see that they are comrades-in-arms. You get that they really care for each other. They are selfless and set each other up to win. Here’s a bunch of individuals that will go to hell and back for each other.

Focus On Process

Many teams focus on the result, which is obviously to win. I’m sure that the Lions do to. But it is patent that whilst winning is at the back of their mind, it’s not what they focus on. They focus on the process of playing rugby to the best of their ability. They know if they give 100% focus on the process and getting better and better, the result will come.

They Live In Joy

The Lions are one of the few Super Rugby teams I’ve seen that play with abandon and pure joy. You just get that they are enjoying themselves on the field because they are expressing the best of themselves. And, because they enjoy themselves, they just play better. They appear to get in the zone more often than not and flow beautifully.

Maybe I’m just romanticising the Lions and what they have achieved against all odds. Be that as it may, I think that the Lions are teaching us all lessons on how to conduct ourselves in this human endeavour.

Do what you love, live in joy, be curious and not judgemental, be encouraging, focus in the moment on doing your best work and set others around you up to win. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. What’s important is that you’ve played your game magnificently and both you and those you care for have benefitted in untold ways.

End Note

I think that if Johan Ackermann ever quits as a coach, he would definitely have a job as a leadership expert.

3 Comments on “Lessons from Lions

June 10, 2015 at 9:05 am

Loved this post Jacques. Happiness comes from living in the present moment. From the way you descrive this team this is what they do. This also ties back to your other post about “There are no big decisions” where you talk about deciding to do your best, no matter what you are doing. I love the philisophy you are encouraging us to adopt – so powerful. Thank you.

June 12, 2015 at 8:17 am

Have you heard the Lions new anthem, as created by Radio 947? Wow, they played it for the first time this morning, and made me think of all the elements of your blog post.

I might take up watching rugby now.

Jacques de Villiers
June 12, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Hey Kirsty, where can I hear the Lions’s new anthem?


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