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Learning from leaders: Siya Kolisi (Part 1 - Leadership)

I recently listened to an episode of The High Performance Podcast featuring Siya Kolisi, the first black captain of the South African rugby union team and the man who led the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2019.



The interview is a powerful articulation of humanity, self-awareness and leadership. As I listened, I noticed a number of points that relate to our own core pillars of wellbeing, teaming and leadership, and I have picked out an example of the latter to share with you here.



Ensuring effective leadership is in place


Whether you are leading a project, a team, an organisation or an external partner, you will need to persuade your followers to believe in you, believe in your vision, and believe in themselves to achieve the vision. But do you always have to be the one at the front?


The Leadership Flywheel © The Performance Learning Company

During Kolisi’s first match as captain of South Africa, his team were 21 points down against England and it was noticeable that players other than Kolisi were trying to get their team going. This was viewed as a negative against his leadership by some members of the media who suggested that, as captain, he should have been the one pushing the team forward.


Kolisi admitted that he didn’t know what to do in that particular situation, so he asked some of his teammates to speak to the team. However, this was not a lack of leadership, but his self-awareness of his own abilities and his understanding of the skills and experience of those around him.


“I know what I don’t know and I know what others around me have and I make sure I make full use of the people around me. You can’t be everything at all times.


It’s not about me. The most important thing is the team. You must know what kind of leaders you have around you. Make full use of them. Make sure they work with you, don’t work against them.”


The Springboks went on to win the match 42-39. By calling on more experienced teammates, Kolisi demonstrated that he was able to deliver what the team needed for the specific situation they found themselves in.


Image by Chris Reading from Pixabay

As a leader, your role is not to lead at every moment, but to ensure that the right leadership is always in place. Knowing yourself and being secure in who you are, including your strengths and weaknesses, is critical in leading yourself and others. Understanding the strengths of those around you and knowing who to call on in different situations can help your team make the right decisions at the right time.


We believe that leadership is not a title; it is a way of being. Click here to learn how you can create the mindset, develop the skillset and build the toolset to practise and learn your way towards leadership excellence.



Look out for our next article, when we’ll be discussing further learning from Siya Kolisi on how getting to know your teammates can improve your performance.

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