Leadership Lessons From The Field

Leadership Lessons From The Field

I had the privilege of captaining rugby teams from the age of 12. It took a very brave coach to make me Captain as I was a wild and uncontrollable kid whose parents lived 3500km away in Lusaka, Zambia. Call it what you will, but the coach had the guts to pick me as captain and keep me as captain even when we lost games. Anyway, the reason I am explaining myself is that I have learned so much through these experiences, that I would like to share some of the knowledge and experiences I gained over 20 years of playing rugby at school and as a professional.


The first lesson I would like to share is about change and why it is important to embrace change. I finished Matric in 1993 and I started a Business Management course in 1994. Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 after spending 27 years in captivity. Four years later he became the president of our country. In the same year I was chosen as the Captain of the SA under 19 team that played in the Junior World Cup.

When every other country sang their national anthem, we had a minute of silence. Die Stem was banned and Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was still in the making so we had a minute of silence. This is where I learnt the most important lesson about change and embracing it instead of fearing it. Leadership comes with change, and you need to embrace it.


The next thing I want to share is about leadership teams. Every single successful team I played in had very strong players with great leadership traits. No team or institution can operate at the top level with a single leader. Our double World Cup winning Springboks was a testimony to that. There were at least five other strong leaders on the field at any given time and that gave Siya Kolisi the confidence to be the great leader he is today. Any team or organisation needs very strong leadership team that keep each other accountable and assists the Captain.


The third and final lesson I learnt is that leaders need to be able to handle conflict. In all the teams I played in, there was a certain amount of conflict. This usually grows more and more with every game lost, when the pressure is on for you to start winning. It is easy to be a leader when things are going well but as soon as the results are not there anymore, then the real leaders need to stand up. It is in these times that conflict needs to be managed and dealt with by the senior leadership team.

Most professionals are extremely competitive, and they hate losing. Our motto was “we win together but we also lose together”. They say a true leader takes a little bit less of the glory when you win and a little more of the blame when you lose. Everybody wants to be associated with a winning team, but the leader must be in the forefront when you lose and in the background when you win. Have a look at the last two World Cup winning photos and see where Rassie stands on those photos. Enough said!


If you would like to get in touch about Debunking Motivation, send an email to corne@cornekrige.com. Visit my website to review my speaker sheet for more info. I also share my story on my social media pages on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Leave a comment

I accept the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy