Legacy - by James Kerr

June Book Review

I bought this book for my husband; he is a rugby fan and was coaching at the time. I picked it up to learn about leadership qualities and coaching skills, and I was curious to know what makes the All Blacks, the All Blacks. Truth be told, I’m not a rugby fan or a die-hard All Blacks fan. But I am a huge advocate for learning and development, and being the best you can be. I believe the All Blacks represent that.


James Kerr was right by their side, in their build up to the Rugby World Cup in 2010 and discovered that the All Blacks demonstrated 'extraordinary high-performance culture', and the underlying principles, methods and processes used were not limited to sporting excellence but transferrable to business leaders.


This is probably my favourite sentence in his book:


Better people make better All Blacks

I highlight principles that are relevant and applicable today, especially for me on this journey. I need to acquire knowledge and learn as much to improve myself and help others in the process. However, I am sure that any insights shared will not leave any room for doubt as to why the All Blacks remains a high performing team or organisation. Of course, its leadership principles are not new to many, but might be interesting in the context of a world-class rugby team.


Humility is embedded at the heart of Māori and Pacific Island culture. The way it is implied is that it is natural, not uncommon and represents a well-adjusted character. This is a key element of ‘mana’, which is a Māori word that encompasses key qualities such as authority, status, personal power, charisma and humility. At the core of true excellence and leadership teaching lies humility.



The All Blacks actively demonstrate this through a concept called 'Sweep the Sheds' - never be too big to do the small things that need to be done. These sporting superstars basically clean up their locker rooms after each game, sweeping floors and tidying up. This is their responsibility and it has become part of their culture which is attributed to what St Augustine said best: Lay first the foundation of humility...the higher the structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.


Play with purpose - ask Why? The rising research around purpose and meaning reveal that shared vision and values, identity and purpose help create a mindset shift and change in behaviours within organisations and individuals. Daniel Pink stated in his book Drive, ‘Humans by nature seek purpose - a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.'


This is so true and reflected in the Hawthorne Effect, where emotional reward is more important than materialism. According to a well-known author, Viktor Frankl, at the core of our humanity is something bigger than ourselves, when we forget ourselves and pursue a cause for the greater good, life has new meaning.

The All Blacks remarkably achieved this, not because New Zealand is a rugby-loving nation. Though that certainly helps. As leaders, they established a collective and collaborative mindset to transform symbols, rituals, mantras for connectedness. The ‘silver fern’ logo or All Black jersey and the haka are powerful symbols and rituals that transcend their identities and values into a higher purpose, demonstrated in their performance, on and off the field. However, to be able to ‘play with purpose’ or live a purpose-driven life, living authentically is a necessity.


Know thy self (Socrates) is to live authentically. Simply being your true self, to understand and embrace who you are. That's how we gain clarity, where our desires, actions and words are aligned to achieve our vision. We write our own story; therefore, our voices reflect our values. In knowing ourselves, we live our vision. But to do that we also need honesty and integrity. Self discipline and self respect for added measure. These characteristics are upheld by inspiring leaders, it can be said that they are the same person in the public arena and in private. Richie McCaw lived by this example.


The best leaders remain true to their deepest values. They lead their own life and others follow.


The All Blacks strive to be authentic in every aspect of their careers. Particularly, as role models it is a huge calling and honor with great responsibility, not just to their community or country, but also to the sport and humanity as a whole. The All Blacks embrace an ideology called 'Whakapapa' that implies stewardship of the past and the future, not driven by status, profit or ego but is based on the individual contribution to a lasting legacy.


The true leader is called to leave the jersey in a better place. Our first responsibility is to be a good ancestor.


To conclude, there are many truths to unpack but the essence remains and the core message is not one we are unfamiliar with. We have what it takes and more, it helps to have in place a sustainable values-based system and an enabling learning environment that brings out the best, by creating a 'culture of curiosity, innovation and continuous improvement'. And yes, agreed that's how we get better, so that better people make better All Blacks holds true. The same can be said about our own communities and countries, its the people that make it better! Amen to continuous improvement, learning is a life long activity.


The book is titled Legacy for a reason, it leaves us pondering on the most profound question - what will your legacy be? This question gets buried in the business of life. And is a good leading question into my next book review on A Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren.


I recommend this book for all rugby lovers and anyone looking for inspiration. I also love the heart of the New Zealand people, and of course, the people of the South Pacific. When it comes to rugby, it has impacted their lives and communities, provided a life of opportunity and in return, they continue to make it a great sport - literally shining a light into our corner of the world.

Leonora x



PS. The book review is based on my own personal opinion and thought process.

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