Ok, so I’m a bit behind the times here, but I recently found a copy of Clive Woodward’s autobiography, Winning – The Story of England’s Rise to World Cup Glory published in 2004. It’s not a typical autobiography dishing the dirt and getting revenge in print. It is much more a manual of leadership outlining the deliberate and conscious techniques employed to help the England rugby team toward peak performance and World Cup victory in 2003.
The insight which I have most latched on to is what he calls “critical non-essentials.” These are the little details which in and of themselves are not essential to playing rugby, but put together make a huge difference to preparation and mindset. Things like creating a professional culture, utilising the best facilities, focusing on the details. A couple of striking examples regard kit. First he introduced kit changes at half time to encourage the players to think about the second half as a new start with blank scoreboard. Second, he suggested to Nike that they develop tighter rugby tops to stop his fast players getting caught by the shirt. Details make a difference. Professionalism wins rugby matches. Are there leadership lessons for all of us in this? As Christian leaders we might not be comfortable with ‘professionalism’ but why not call it ‘faithfulness in every area’ including the details. Surely we must be eager for that?