Super Saturday: Good to Great?

eddie jones headerIt’s Super Saturday! Three international Six Nations matches in one day as we reach the climax of finale competition weekend and the prospect of an epic England back-to-back grand slam victory (a feat only achieved five times in 107 years).

England seek their 19th successive test win as they prepare to meet age-old rivals Ireland, on a St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Dublin.  I am intrigued.  Who is leading this merry band of English players? 

What approach to leadership have they taken and to what extent had this influenced the team performance?

Being Welsh, my knowledge of the English team is rather limited and it is bizarrely tricky to find out much about the team leadership from the England site.  This perhaps is an indicator itself into the role of leadership with England Rugby?  However, good old Wikipedia came up trumps! 

eddie jonesThe Head Coach is Eddie Jones; former Australian professional rugby player and, interestingly, until 1994 he had been a teacher and school principal. Could this be the winning formula? I would love to know the impact on his coaching approach from having mastered the knowledge, skills and understanding for playing the game, from being the learner, combined with his experiences of leading others in promoting learning, that of being a teacher and school leader.  What has he brought to his coaching role that has made him so successful? He has coached the Australian team and the Japanese team prior to this recent and sustained England success.  Is Jones the mastermind behind the meteoric rise of the England team?

At the British School in the Netherlands we are rapidly approaching the launch of our International Leadership Academy and, as such, leadership is firmly on my mind (I know, even first thing on a Saturday morning!). 

What makes great leaders and great leadership? This, a question frequently asked which has led to whole shelves at airport book stores being dedicated to this question. I am intrigued about what it is in Jones’ leadership of the English team that has enabled such global success?  What can we learn from this?

good-to-great.jpgIn all such times where I find myself in the leadership pit of unknowing, I refer back to the trusty and rather fabulous Jim Collins who wrote the now classics ‘Built to Last’ and ‘Good to Great’ (more recently ‘How the Mighty Fall’, but I haven’t read this one yet).  These texts really impacted on my thinking early in my school leadership journey.  So, this morning, I raided my partially unpacked library in search of Collins’ wise words.

Collins references four key ideas around leadership that keep an organisation accelerating long into the future and elevating them to an ‘iconic stature’1. 

  1. Clock building. Not time telling. Build an organisation that can endure and adapt through multiple generations of leaders and multiple product life cycles; the exact opposite of being built around a single great leader or single great idea.
  2. Genius of AND. Embrace both extremes on a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing A OR B, figure out how to have A AND B – purpose AND profit, continuity AND change, freedom AND responsibility, etc.
  3. Core ideology. Instil core values (essential and enduring tenents) and core purpose (fundamental reason for being beyond just making money) as principles to guide decisions and inspire people throughout the organisation over a long period of time.
  4. Preserve the Core/Stimulate Progress. Preserve the core ideology as an anchor point whilst stimulating change, improvement, innovation and renewal in everything else.  Changes practices and strategies while holding core values and purpose fixed.  Set and achieve BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goal’s) consistent with the core ideology.

Mapping these ideas against the development of the England team is an interesting task particularly considering Jones’ four-year contract with the 2019 World Cup firmly insight.  Can the current success be maintained, sustained and improved further over time; a question we should always be asking ourselves as school leaders?  Are we building for the future and ensuring stable, sustainable and secure foundations? 

Jones has led the England team since 2015 and only time will tell if his influence of leading England from good to great will build a team ethos and legacy to last. 



1.       Collins, J. (2001) Good to Great pp.197-198 Random House, London



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