I’m not an expert on sport, but it is interesting to observe how coaches and managers go about their work under scrutiny from the press, and to see if we can learn from them.

When Warren Gatland, the British and Irish Lions coach, announced his selection for the final match of the Lions tour of Australia it was big sporting news. He had left out a player who many think of as one of the finest of his generation. He also made other changes from the team that had already beaten Australia.

He was criticised by many in the press and by sporting commentators. He came under a lot of pressure to reverse his decisions On selection of the team.

But leadership is about making tough decisions. It’s about removing emotion from a decision and looking at the situation logically.

So let’s look again. In the first match the Lions won by a small margin; one way of looking at it is that Australia only lost because they missed a number of kicks. If they had succeeded with these kicks, especially the last one, they would have won. So what would the reaction have been had Austalia taken their chances and won that game? Would commentators and the press have been  so against changes in the team? I don’t know, but it’s possible that Warren Gatland saw how close that match was and considered changes were required, especially after Australia won the second match.

It looks like he demonstrated strong leadership by making tough decisions on player selection. It looks like he made these based on logic and performance rather than on reputation.

We can remind ourselves that:

1. Leaders make tough decisions. They don’t dodge them or prevaricate. Decisions are made.

2. Leaders don’t always go with the popular decisions. They go with what they think is right to achieve the objective. Despite pressure from others.

3. Leaders analyse situations to make sure they have really understood what has happened. What the facts are. They know the small stuff so that they are fully informed to make the big decisions.

I don’t know much about sport, but it seems to me that Mr Gatland is a great leader.

For more on leadership search this blog or for leadership training with ITD go to www.itd.com/leadership

What can the British & Irish Lions tour remind us about leadership?

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