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The Alchemy of Leadership Blog

Learning from Lions


With the experience of three British & Irish Lions tours between them, two of them victorious, David Sole and Guy Richardson came together to discuss the lessons learned from the most recent tour to New Zealand and how these might be applied to business. Covering headings of Leadership, Teamwork and Culture, these are some of the key messages:


  • Leadership is a team sport – pick great deputies as a leader and delegate decision making authority to them.
  • Don’t be afraid to make the big calls – leaders have to have the moral courage to take decisions that may be unpopular, but which are ultimately for the best interests of the wider organisation.
  • Meticulous planning and preparation is critical – and these plans need to be communicated to the rest of the organisation to enable people to understand the different scenarios.
  • Humility is a key attribute of great leaders – admitting that you are wrong or that you don’t have all the answers can be incredibly powerful.
  • Ultimately, it is the leader who has to make the final judgement call – but until then you need to get the balance right. The leader should be consultative, but needs to make the final call – they have to be collaborative but not indecisive and be decisive without being autocratic.
  • Clarity of purpose is key – reinforce it; restate it but above all, keep it simple and engaging.


  • Team performance is only really tested when under intense pressure – fractures and fissures in the team will only ever appear when situations aren’t benign and things don’t go well. And pressure will come from the most unlikely of places.
  • Know how your team members will react when the pressure comes on – pick the best team you can and team members who can deal with this stress and who will rally round rather than dissipate when the pressure ramps up.
  • Don’t look for excuses – deal with what happens as best you can under the circumstances.
  • Retain a sense of perspective – manage the pressure as best you can in the situation. It’s only sport or business – life goes on.
  • Don’t lose sight of your purpose or goal – really know the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of what you want to achieve as a team and continually re-orientate yourself towards this.
  • Bring a team together by building trust between team members – get to know each other as humans and beware self-interest taking priority.
  • Have the moral courage to tackle ‘team’ issues – call out poor behaviour when it crops up and hold team members accountable for performance and behaviours.


  • Having the right culture is critical to success – you need to create the right environment in your organisation to succeed.
  • Language and leadership define culture – leaders are role models for organisational culture and everyone has a role to play in both defining the culture and reinforcing it throughout the organisation.
  • Clarity of purpose is key in defining culture as well as leadership – defining organisational values is an important step in obtaining cultural clarity and this will be more engaging if the whole organisation is engaged and consulted in this process. Behaviours determine the culture and both good and poor behaviours need to be reinforced or called out respectively.
  • ‘Walk the talk’ – embody the culture of the organisation by the way that you behave in it.

Watch a full recording of the webinar with the stories from the Lions tours that reinforce these messages below


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