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Book Review, Leadership

Book review: James Kerr (2013). Legacy What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life. London: Constable. Edition.


In 1998 as a young and fresh faced trainee teacher I was fortunate enough to watch an All Blacks training session at Bracknell Rugby club with some team mates from my university rugby club. It was an experience that has stuck with me since that day; I watched a cohesive group of my heroes working with commitment, supporting each other to perform to the best of their (significant!) abilities. After the session I was struck by both their physicality (a common selection criteria seemed to be having hands big enough to cup a sheep in one palm and an amazing ability for massive men to deftly change their direction of travel!) and their humility.  They talked openly, asking questions about me and my team mates and shared their post training meal with what to them must have looked like a group of under fed and over enthusiastic dwarves.  Essentially it seemed to me to be like a large family unit; I learned never to play cards with Olo Brown (photographic memory apparently!) and that Frank Bunce has a wicked sense of humour.

I have only been rendered speechless once in my life, it was on the same day when meeting Sean Fitzpatrick, the then All Black captain. Whilst struggling for words his sense of reassurance struck me; he knew that what it took to be successful was collaboration and the part that his team mates played in his success and the part he played in their success was inexorably linked.  It was this moment that set me off on a journey towards finding out more about how highly performing teams operate.  Reading ‘Legacy; what the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life.‘ seemed to be the perfect opportunity to finally get some inside information.

Essentially James Kerr breaks down the values around which the All Blacks have built their group culture. During reading you build a picture about the humble, hard working nature of the All Black group and the lengths to which they will go, particularly in psychological terms and values driven practices, to achieve the goal of becoming a Great All Black.  The discussion of the origin and application of these processes and values and their contribution to the building of an effective team culture is really interesting.

This book initially attracted me as a rugby fan but after the first few pages it became clear that the audience for this book is far wider than sports fans.  If you are interested in reflecting upon your own leadership values and practices this is a good read. Equally the lessons that can be learned, such as taking care of yourself in terms of not expecting others to do something you would not, are applicable to both students and teachers, maybe for slightly different reasons…

My personal favourite is the no dickheads rule… basically don’t be one and don’t tolerate one; some advice I am going to try to follow!

One aspect which I found very relevant personally was the shift towards creating a learning focused environment as a means for sustained performance and cultural improvement.  This reflects work that I am currently undertaking and is something that I personally attach great value to. All educational establishments should consider taking this on board; build the professional capital of staff and the associated outcome gains will be great.

As such, I am going to leave you with the idea this book is well worth a read as I spend some quality professional learning time researching the impact of these practices and values upon team performance by watching the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup 2015!

Now where did I put that Steinlager?



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