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  • Jonathan Gibbon

Learning from Leaders: Siya Kolisi

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 work and have chosen three which I hope will be useful to you.



Influence and control


A concept you often hear sportspeople and military personnel speak about is ‘controlling the controllables’. We can waste a lot of time and energy worrying about things that are outside of our control. But if we focus on giving our best to the things we can control, it can reduce stress and anxiety, increase happiness and improve our performance.


When asked how he reacts if others don’t meet his standards, Kolisi said:

“Are you giving your best? I can only lead when I’m doing my best on the field.

I can’t control what everybody does. I can’t control what my teammate does but I can control what I say to him and how I treat him.”


Your personal wellbeing is based on how you feel internally and how you react to external stimuli. Raising your self-awareness helps you recognise a situation, then catch yourself so you can pause to decide how best to respond. Activating this pause and response mechanism enables you to consider the impact of your actions, make better decisions and respond more productively.


How you interact with others impacts their performance and wellbeing too. You might not be able to control what they do, but in delivering a considered response and being the best version of yourself, you can influence their mindset, encourage their action and support their development.



Click here to download your free Control the Controllables exercise.



Get to know your teammates


Understanding who your colleagues and teammates are and what drives them can foster a team spirit that pushes your collective performance to new levels. Taking the time to talk openly, to be vulnerable and understand each other as people, rather than just as the job you are doing, builds bonds that can push you to fight that little bit more. It can help you achieve success when the odds are against you.


Kolisi discussed this point, saying:


“If I get to know you as my teammate, far beyond the rugby field – what you stand for, what drives you, your struggles, things that have hurt you – it draws me closer then you understand the person himself, not the sportsman. You understand the person and why you do it because there’s always a why on what you do.


For me, the more I know of you, the more I want to go out there and fight for you. It goes so much deeper and brings you so much closer. It’s not just what’s happening on the field, there’s so much more in life.”


Everyone is human. Getting to know each other for who you are and how you fit into the wider system can help you create connections and build stronger relationships. It supports both personal and collective wellbeing. In addition, understanding each other’s purpose and values can help you motivate each other to push further – particularly when times are tough – and deliver your best performances.


Image by Chris Reading from Pixabay

If you’d like to build connections within your team, you can learn about the teaming solutions we provide here.



Planning for success


‘What are we going to do when we win?‘


That was the question Kolisi’s wife asked him the night before the 2019 Rugby World Cup final.


She reminded him that a lot of people dream of being in this position, but they don’t prepare for when it happens. So, the night before the biggest game of Kolisi’s career, he and his wife wrote down the things they wanted to do when they won – essentially, how to use their platform because they had absolute belief that they would win. It included starting a foundation and tackling the challenges they and their families faced growing up in South Africa - something well outside of the rugby field. Around a year later, when The High Performance Podcast interview took place, they’d already achieved all but one of the things they wrote down. And I would imagine they had a new list in place and were working towards completing that, too.

I’ve heard many sports people talk about reaching the pinnacle of their sport, then feeling lost because they don’t know what to do next or they’re unsure how anything can live up to the achievement. And it can be the same with targets and successes in business or life. It could even apply to leaving a job or your children leaving home.

You don’t have to have everything mapped out when you start your journey, but by setting goals and milestones along the way, and considering all areas of your life, you can keep moving forward. Having regular reviews and reflection enables you to keep a rolling roadmap. Knowing your purpose, values and the resources available to you – all of which can also be reviewed periodically – will help you ensure there is always something to focus on and always something that drives you to get up in the morning.



If you'd like a course that will help you clarify your goals, align your choices and guide your actions, click here to learn more.




Enhancing your own wellbeing


Discovering more about yourself through heightened self-awareness enables you to gain clarity on who you are, what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. In helping you gain confidence, remove limiting beliefs and align your choices in pursuit of your goals, you will enhance your wellbeing and performance as you move to clear, focused action.



To discuss how we can help you reap the benefits of raising your own self-awareness, please contact us for a free consultation.



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