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Leadership from within key to All Blacks' RWC success

Leadership from within key to All Blacks' RWC success

The All Blacks’ success in reaching the finals of the Rugby World Cup is no surprise to Massey University PhD student Tom Johnson.

The former All Black trialist and New Zealand Rugby Union council member has been investigating the winning ethos and organisational factors in developing the team culture for his doctoral thesis.

His findings indicate that the pride in the All Blacks’ legacy, pride in selection and pride in winning are constant factors in their success. Symbols such as the jersey and the silver fern are clearly important as well as rituals, such as the haka, which has become increasingly important.

Mr Johnson, 73, has conducted in-depth interviews with All Black captains and coaches from the past 60 years. He says one of the key findings of his research is the strong senior collective leadership that has been ever present.

“Originally led by senior players on the back seat of the bus, this internal leadership has been formalised by the current coaching team and has proved to be very effective,” he says in his study.

“The learning culture within the team has emphasised constant improvement through scientific use of exercise physiology, video analysis, nutrition, and developing effective decision making on and off the field.

“The importance placed on winning has remained consistent. It is anticipated that these findings will be transferable to other sports team contexts and assist in the organisational development of sport team culture.”

His supervisor Associate Professor Andy Martin, of Massey University’s School of Sport and Exercise, says “Tom’s thesis provides a fascinating insight into the All Blacks’ culture and his background as a business and rugby leader provide unique experiences as a researcher”.

Mr Johnson, a former Hawkes Bay loose forward, has also been supervised by former Black Ferns captain and triple Rugby World Cup winner Dr Farah Palmer.

He is working on final changes to this thesis and plans to graduate next year. He was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit earlier the year for his service to rugby.


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