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Rugby captain Sam Warburton holding an N1in his hands

What makes a great business leader?

Lessons from international sport.
Written by Daniel Creasey, UK Marketing Manager for Panasonic Mobile Solutions.

What makes a great business leader?

Lessons from international sport.

Effective leadership is one of the key pillars of success for any business and all successful professional sports teams. So do the traits that make you a successful leader in sport transfer to the business world? We have been talking to Sam Warburton, former British and Irish Lions Rugby Captain, to find out and to understand what he sees as the secrets to leadership success.

Leading in business isn’t easy. Whether in good times or testing circumstances, you have to face up to whatever work throws at you. Inspiring your teams to perform. Influencing partners and clients alike and meeting every challenge your business faces. But with great leadership, you can gain a critical advantage that sets you apart from the competition.

So, what does it take to be a great leader? In a series of short recorded films with Sam Warburton, one of the greatest sporting figureheads in a generation, Panasonic TOUGHBOOK has been exploring just what it means to lead from the front. There may not be a blueprint to great leadership, but there are tools which can help you get there. Here’s what I took from Sam’s chats with Kevin Jones, Managing Director of Panasonic’s European Mobile Business Division.

As a young captain, Sam says he was asked to establish a leadership compass. The four most important traits that a leader needs to display. They seem to have stood him in good stead throughout an incredible career, so I thought I would share them here:

  1. Positivity. To be good at something, you have to believe it. If Sam was asked if he was ever nervous about playing a talented opponent, he would think about the positives he was going to bring to the battle. He had confidence that he was genetically better than his opponent; taller, more powerful, faster and fitter. More important, he said, he knew that he had eaten more healthily, trained harder and believed in himself more. He was very aware that all these things spoken out loud would sound incredibly arrogant but when spoken by his inner voice and believed in his mind, it provided the confidence boost required and the motivation to succeed.
  1. Be professional. By encapsulating all the small things that are professional, you become professional. For example, be on time, wear the right kit, lead by example and always try your best. These small but important attributes are all important ingredients to being seen as a leader and together they become a potent package.
  1. Develop people skills. Surprisingly, Sam says he is naturally an introvert, which when younger he thought was a bad thing. However, he has come to realise that there are many types of leadership style. Not all successful leaders have to rule with an iron fist and be able to deliver Churchillian speeches at a moment’s notice. He believes his ability to get to know people, connect with them and encourage them to communicate with him – both the good and the bad – have helped create his own strong leadership skills as a captain and professional sportsman.

Rugby captain Sam Warburton in the background and a TOUGHBOOK A3 in the front

  1. Performance. Lastly, he said that above everything else, great leaders maintain a consistently high level of performance. Making sure they perform to the best of their ability, week in and week out. He believes that if you let those performance levels slip, others will quickly see and fail to follow. This, he said, is probably the hardest of the four leadership traits to consistently deliver but arguably the most important.

Aside from his leadership compass, Sam made several other important points that stuck with me.

  1. Focus on what you are good at. To be successful you need to find that point of strength, a point of difference and excel at it. He believes too many people focus on their weaknesses and become competent but then rarely excel at anything.
  1. Remember that leadership is not a solo task. He said that in successful teams there are always captains but very often there another 5 or 6 senior players that bring their own strengths to the team. By remaining humble and surrounding yourself with a team of sub-leaders with strengths in areas other than your own, it is possible to achieve almost anything.

These were just a few of the highlights I took away from the videos but I recommend you view them for yourself. They are fun, insightful and enlightening for both business people and rugby fans alike.

Check out the Lead From The Front series of videos.

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