Legacy is an excellent book with lots of little gems for the casual reader, rugby enthusiast or business leader.
Most people have heard of the old All Blacks rules of “No Dickheads” and “Sweep the sheds”, this book has a lot more substance than that. It wears its research lightly and provides excellent insight into a culture that has produced the single most successful sporting organisation in history.
Where’s the broom?
It’s hard to summarise the theme of the book into one neat little phrase, but humility covers a lot of it. The “sweep the sheds” adage is ultimately about humility i.e. it doesn’t matter how famous or successful you are: The Blacks still sweep their own changing rooms after a match – no one is bigger than the shirt. “At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back in the same box”.
The second reinforcement of the humility theme is the notion that they are all students of the game and are there to learn. Some past All Blacks coaches were teachers by profession, especially in the amateur era, so have approached rugby and leadership as a challenge to be overcome through learning. Priding themselves on the quality of the questions they ask, not the answers they give. This quote caught me by the scruff of the neck: “The first stage of learning is silence; the second stage is listening”.
If it ain’t broke, break it
I found this part most interesting. Even as an obsessive rugby fan, I did not know this about the All Blacks. The Blacks don’t see progression in a linear fashion. They see it more as a curve with 3 distinct phases – Learning, Growth, Decline.
The Learning phase is getting to grips with the environment and learning your craft. The Growth phase is when mastery occurs and success soon follows. Lastly, inevitably, at the latter end of the Growth phase, complacency sets in and success seems assured. The Decline phase begins “like the early twinges of arthritis in a middle-aged person”.
They say, “The key, of course, is when we’re on top of our game, we change our game; to exit relationships, recruit new talent, alter tactics, reassess strategy.” They say that the real skill of a coach (or business leader for that matter) is timing these leaps. When to move on from a superstar, when to innovate, when to pivot and change direction. They say you either adapt or lose.
There is a real notion of purpose and meaning to the All Blacks culture that comes through the book. Brian Kerr describes how the players approach representing their country. Each player is a temporary custodian of the shirt and they are compelled to leave the jersey in a better state than they got it (not literally of course). Be a good ancestor, basically.
Kerr quotes Daniel Pink from Drive “humans, by their nature, seek purpose – a cause greater and more enduring than themselves”. The easiest way to digest this explanation is through everyday simple examples: people leaving well paid jobs for more purposeful ones: they volunteer: have children. The All Blacks’ culture seems to have connected them with this higher purpose that the shirt represents. “The more you have to play for, the better you play”.
The author lists plenty of famous examples of leaders connecting people to purpose. The obvious ones of Steve Jobs, Howard Shultz. Plus, Simon Sinek “Start with Why” and Victor Frankl. I most liked (and had not heard before) the Oliver Cromwell quote “My army won because they knew what they were fighting for, and loved what they knew”.
It’s a great book. Really, really easy to read and you can whip through it pretty quickly. There are some great stories and anecdotes to help keep you grounded in reality and orientated towards your goals.
Some extra quotes:
“(there are) …no crowds lining the extra mile”
“Authenticity is the alignment of the head, mouth, heart and feet”
“Example is not the main thing when influencing others, it’s the only thing”