Springbok and Stormers captain Siya Kolisi has opened up about his leadership style and belief in deferring to other leaders in the squad.
Kolisi was speaking with Western Province high-performance coach Tom Dawson-Squibb and former Blitzboks captain Kyle Brown in their regular podcast – The Leading Conversation – which unpacks the task of leading teams and performance.
During the podcast, Kolisi mentioned the unrealistic expectations placed on modern sport captains as well as his own style of leadership.
‘I don’t speak much. I am not the type of guy that will do those Any Given Sunday speeches before a match,’ Kolisi said. ‘I have started reading the Bible because it is something that means a lot to me. Each team has a theme of the week and I will try and find a verse that works for me in that regard. I started doing it with the Springboks that day we beat the All Blacks for the first time.
‘But the coach normally speaks and at the Stormers, Dobbo [John Dobson] has a few last words. For me, it is just for the guys to enjoy it and to make sure that I am prepared because I know I love leading by the way that I play.
‘The guys know what type of player I am and what type of leader I am. I have always been asked to just go “beast mode” because they feel that that is the way they prefer to follow me. They know that I don’t like speaking a lot.
‘I use the guys around me in the team as well. There are a lot of guys who have leadership skills as well in the teams that I play in. Sometimes I have no idea what to say – like when we were losing against England [in 2018] in my first game as captain. I had no idea what to do. So I had to look to Duane and all the other guys who were on the field at that time.
‘Most of all, I will always tell guys to calm down and look at what is working and what is not working. Luckily we have different leaders for different parts of the field – breakdown, lineouts and all that kind of stuff – if something is not working, I will look to the other leader to tell us what the solution is.’
Brown pointed out that in his own experience he would look to other leaders in the Blitzboks squad, such as Cecil Afrika or Philip Snyman, to solve specific problems on and off the field.
‘Not everybody can lead like that,’ Kolisi added. ‘Some guys just want take everything onto themselves and if it doesn’t work, then who do they look to? I preferred shared leadership.
‘To be honest, not everybody responds in the same way to the leader. There are some times that they respond to a different style of leadership. For example, Dillyn Leyds might respond better to Steven Kitshoff than me. I don’t mind that, it doesn’t scare me because I know what I am about and what I want to do.
‘If I am feeling early in a game that I am not myself, I will go to tell somebody that I trust and that I know will be able to help me out. They will tell me that will take the pressure off my plate and just to make a few tackles because they know that’s what gets me back to where I need to be. Then I will take back the leadership. I am not scared to say when I am struggling. I see that as one of my strong points.’
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