England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster’s towering efforts to inject life and pride into his team ahead of the Six Nations in Ireland at the weekend clearly paid off. It can also teach us a lot about the fundamental principles of leadership.

Newspaper reports suggest that the first step Lancaster took to re-instilling the team’s core values was to spread the mantra ‘pride in the shirt’.

Three of the most important questions for leaders to ask themselves are "What do you stand for?", "Why should they follow you?"  and, in considering any needed changes "What will be different?".  Lancaster reads management and business books for guidance and he has clearly given these questions his focus and attention.

This certainly resonated with James Haskell, who told the Daily Mail: "There is a lot of respect for the shirt. Everyone realises you have to fill it with physicality, emotion and passion. You know that any moment it can be taken away. Your performances have to do the talking. That is really good for creating a competitive environment."

By getting the team to take pride in wearing the English kit, Lancaster clearly illustrates what he and his team stand for. Leaders need to constantly reiterate what they stand for, even if they think it is obvious, to ensure the people they need on their side are connected to a particular cause.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Lancaster clearly outlines how leaders get buy-in on their vision and values. He says: “I think the players at the time wanted England to be successful. Obviously I needed to sell the vision to them as to what I thought it would take for us to become successful."

This also shows that Lancaster understands how to convince team members to follow him. All leaders, whether they work in sport or business, need a following; otherwise their vision, no matter how inspired, will not become reality. Think about the reasons why someone might follow you. What is in it for them?

Once a leader has achieved a following, he or she can then get people to think about what the future would look like if the business or organisation successfully achieved its goals. In the following statement Lancaster shows his ability to get members of his team to paint pictures of what success looks like.

Fundamentally, how do we want to be remembered as a team? We’ve got two choices. We can be remembered like this… Or you can tell me how you would want us to be remembered. What headlines would you like to see?

All leaders face the challenge of clearly describing exactly what it is they want to create. This is an important skill to nail down because if you can’t get people to picture success then it is highly unlikely that they will know what to do to achieve it. Leaders who successfully enable people to visualise what they want to achieve often have the ability of getting people to listen when they speak by presenting ideas in an authoritative and memorable way. The language and rhetoric you use will have an important role to play here. Remember who your audience is and use language that they can relate to. In almost all cases this will mean leaving dry management speak at the door! During an interview with The Daily Telegraph Lancaster reveals that he deliberates over what he says to ensure it reflects his values.

"I always spend time reflecting on how I come across, what impression I leave on people. I know instinctively if I say something that I didn’t mean to come out in a certain way. I never want to be perceived as arrogant. If I ever was, I would correct myself pretty sharpish. I would be very disappointed in myself if that happened. I am protected by my values, the fact that I come from a normal teaching background. I would be cheating myself if I didn’t stay true to my roots" he says.

England, the only side left in the competition without losing a game, is now in pole position to win the tournament.

Do leaders within your organisation understand the fundamental principals of leadership?

Clive Hook
Programme Director at Clearworth

Find out more about the Five Fundamentals Questions for Leaders here