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Servant Leadership & Professional Rugby

I'm no rugby player and admit that my understanding of the game is somewhat limited, but when a friend, John Dobson, was appointed as the coach from the DHL Western Cape Stormers (a Super 14 rugby team), I was intrigued to know more about how he managed his role as leader with this team of professional athletes.

John is a wonderfully self-deprecating individual; he is a lawyer, entrepreneur and published author as well as a highly respected rugby coach. We did our MBA together at the University of Cape Town about 20 years ago, and I had the chance to get to know John as a syndicate member. John's transition to coach of DHL Stormers was via head coach of the University of Cape Town's rugby team, and a lifetime spent playing the sport and being in the business of rugby (John started and ran the very successful website

I asked John to share his leadership approach and how he had built a team that includes six South African Springbok players (including the team captain). Much to my surprise, John shared how the real key to growth and development of the team was in the care, nurturing and respect he provided for players as individuals. While other staff on the coaching staff address the technical aspects of the game, John shared how creating a sense of possibility for the players and building a strong team engagement off and on the field was essential. The team recently got together to perform a wonderful song by one of South Africa's most loved songwriters and musicians - Johnny Clegg. You can watch the video here as well as the behind the scene video here. This small gesture gave recognition to the musicians who had done so much to bring South Africans of all races together during Apartheid, and helped the DHL Stormers bond during an activity so out of their comfort zone. The video includes a number of well-known South African musicians, performers and music professionals - all of who performance at no cost.

John continues to engage with and keep his team motivated during the South African COVID-19 lockdown and I know that the cape Town rugby supporters are counting the days until we can watch and support out team again!

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