Gallagher launch Leaders Trust in partnership with Premiership Rugby

·5-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Sponsorship value in modern sport often revolves around shared objectives and shared problems. In a world of instant content and, at times, questionable KPIs such as ‘hits’ and ‘engagements’, the real measure of effective commercial partnership is mutual growth – whether in monetary, cultural or intellectual terms.

Premiership Rugby’s Gallagher are one of those headlines sponsors that seem to understand this; not content with sitting on the sidelines for titular recognition, they are an active partner that drives through that mutual value of growth – and to this end, they’ve recently partnered with renowned academic and leadership coach Professor Damian Hughes to deliver a programme of commercial mentorship and council to the senior executives within the sport, presented as the Gallagher Leaders Trust.

Competitive Advantage

Hughes is an unusual man – thoughtful yet forthright, measured yet charismatic – and it’s his thinking that lies behind this exciting initiative.

“All rugby clubs are seeking a competitive advantage,” he explained.

“When it comes to great leadership to deliver that competitive advantage, I subscribe to the Warren Buffet thinking – Do you have the energy? Do you have the intellect? And, most importantly, do you have the role model skills to deliver the cultural values that your organisation aspire to?

“Many coaches are great ‘on the grass – they have that energy and intellect – but it’s that role modelling piece that really defines the gap between doers and real leaders. Socially and biologically, as humans, we’re hard wired to spot hypocrisy and in very simple terms, nobody will follow a hypocrite. You can see this in politics right now – things like inflation, economic issues and so on can all be forgiven, but it’s the hypocrisy around the lockdown parties (on both sides) that’s really disappointed people and caused the outrage. You said ‘we’d do this’ the you did something completely contradictory – it’s that sort of thing that will really stir visceral emotion and erode leadership messages,” Hughes observed.

“At the Gallagher Leaders Trust we talk about these things and try and support the retention of that role model integrity. How many times do you hear of coaches ‘losing the dressing room?’ I spend a lot of time talking to players and I always get the same two pieces of feedback in terms of how they want to be led – transparency – ‘what do you expect of me as an athlete?’ and ‘consistency’ – lead me with a message that has integrity.

“Our initiative is a chance for these coaching leaders to get together with business leaders who are experiencing precisely the same challenges – they’re not there sharing technical knowledge, but they are there sharing emotional and cultural knowledge – and discussing how to embed leadership integrity into both high performance business and sporting environments. In short, it’s about being around people who lead with integrity.”

Big ideas into small business

Hughes accedes that the majority of rugby clubs are small businesses and might not always have the cultural and people resources of bigger commercial organisations. However, it’s his view that the ecosystems do cross over, but that it’s just a matter of correct understanding of your business.

“The key question here isn’t ‘do you have the right culture’, but rather ‘what culture do you have?’

“If you put a group of people together, they’ll form their own culture pretty quickly, whatever the size of the group or the task of the group – the key here is to understand what type of culture is in existence and I break this down into five simple categories.

1. Star Culture – big budget, throw enough cash at stars and you’ll succeed.
2. Autocratic Culture – powerfully minded owner or head coach, my way or the highway.
3. Bureaucratic Culture – one governed by rules, procedures and almost management by committee.
4. Engineering Culture – deep knowledge of subject, deep technical expertise, often not user friendly.
5. Commitment Culture – light touch, clear sense of purpose and values, driven by a commitment to common goals and common behaviours.

“In a 25-year study commenced in the 1990s in Silicon Valley it was proven conclusively that over time, it’s the commitment culture that consistently wins. This is down to it being people centric, a group of individuals bound by a commitment both to themselves and to a common vision.

“The task of the Gallagher Leaders Trust isn’t to prescribe the culture of the clubs, but to allow them to identify what they have and to respond and understand their culture. We’re not going to tell them what’s good or bad, but we can assist identify what they have now, where they need to be in the future and then, crucially, the cultural and leadership gaps that need to be addressed to get into that high performance mode that all sports organisations crave,” Hughes explained.

“The overall aim is to equip the Premiership DoRs with the ability to engineer the correct cultures and lead by the non-negotiable behaviours and then, to give them the skills to create other leadership groups within their own organisations,” concluded Hughes.

In response, Simon Massie-Taylor, CEO of Premiership Rugby, said: “Premiership Rugby acknowledges the pressure and stress that comes with running an elite rugby team and the results of Gallagher’s survey reinforce the importance of any business leader being able to tap into trusted networks of support.

“I strongly endorse the value of having trusted advisers and mentors to help provide expert advice and support to leaders, especially in this uncertain and complex world we live in. Therefore, I am very keen to encourage that culture of connection across the Premiership. Gallagher is a trusted partner, and we look forward to working closely with them to ensure the Leaders Trust is a valuable tool for DoRs in our league.”

To find out more about the Gallagher Leaders Trust please visit Premiership Rugby’s website.

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