Eddie Jones and why leaders over-reach

March 15, 2018

Eddie Jones

A video of England rugby coach Eddie Jones addressing a group of sponsors has reached the public. It makes an interesting case of a successful leader setting himself up to fail.

 

Background

The video was recorded several months ago. Eddie Jones is currently the coach of the England (male) rugby team. His appointment in 2015 was controversial. The premier national teams of the northern hemisphere have increasingly selected from coaches the most successful rugby nations. In practice this means coaches from New Zealand and the other Southern Hemisphere countries Australia and South Africa.

After a period of relative under-performing, England chose Eddie Jones, a colourful character of Australian, Japanese and American origins.
Jones played rugby to state level in Australia.. He then embarked on a coaching career mostly with spectacular successes, but not without the occasional setback. As coach of Australia he stared well but a series of successive losses ended his contract. His last loss was to Wales, a point which may have some further relevance.

He achieved success again as national coach to Japan. In rugby-playing terms, Japan is a minor nation. It also lacks an adequate supply of monstrous players in a game which has evolved to require high bulk and mobility. His style is a passionate one, invoking pride in his teams of national and cultural values. Rather than import hefty Samoans, he introduced a fearless flyweight style of play which brought shock wins and delighted spectators during the World Cup of 2015.
This track record, and Japan’s showing resulted in his appointment as England coach.

His initial impact was spectacular, and the team began to show potential to become a serious challenger for the next world cup. At the time of the video Jones could point to a remarkable turnaround of fortunes in results. His leadership impact was clearly a significant factor.
A run of twenty three matches was ended by a firy Irish team, which was also progressing well including a win over the near invincible New Zealand All Blacks.
In this summary I draw attention to the loss to Wales which coincided with Jones losing his Australian post, and then to the recent loss to Ireland which ended his winning streak.

The video

In the video, Jones is heard lauding his own success in converting Japan into an exciting new force in world rugby. He then turns to the defeat by Ireland.

“We’ve played 23 Tests and we’ve only lost one Test to the scummy Irish,” he told his audience. “I’m still dirty about that game, but we’ll get that back, don’t worry. We’ve got them next year at home so don’t worry, we’ll get that back.”

Jones was also recorded discussing Wales in the context of Japan Under‑20s losing 125-0 against their Welsh counterparts shortly after he took over as the Japan head coach in 2012. “Wales. Who knows Wales? Are there any Welsh people here? So it’s this little shit place that has got three million people. Three million!”

Dilemmas of leadership
Another dilemma of leadership. When a leader starts believing his or herself-constructed story. It has contributed to the aura around the leader. Some might call it the evidence of charisma. The leader flushed with success, acts out the self-image in terms which become dismissed as bluster or dismissive of others.

Remind you of any other leader?

Do these words remind you of another leader, often in the news for his provocative statements?

“I’m still dirty about that game, but we’ll get that back, don’t worry. We’ve got them next year at home so don’t worry, we’ll get that back.”

If so, what more general conclusions can we draw from the case of Eddie Jones? And is it coincidence that his team plays that “scummy team Ireland” this weekend, a team which has already won the six-nations championship from England this year, regardless of the result?

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Peter Carey’s Amnesia is more than Wikileaks without Assange

January 1, 2015

Amnesia
Book Review

I bought Amnesia by Peter Carey for Christmas reading, partly on the author’s track record. Also because the blurb promised a tale of a cyber-hacker which a back story of political intrigue in Australia including the revolutionary events of 1975, and current controversies around the treatment of boat people, a version of a wider issue of immigration policy confronting so many countries.

Release of The Angel Worm

Cyber-hacker Gaby Baillieux’s actions have been shaped by a turbulent childhood with politically and socially active parents and diverse group of mostly hostile school mates. Her acts of rebellion with super-hacker boyfriend Frederick culminate with the release of the Angel Worm, which also results in the release of assorted prisoners detained in Australia’s prison system. Worse, the effects are felt around the world wherever American organisations are responsible for security, which naturally gives a new meaning to The Land of The Free. Frederick and Gaby become public enemies Nos 1 and 2.

A plan is hatched

A plan is hatched by Gaby’s glamorous mother Celine and Felix Moore, a discredited journalist and formerly a besotted admirer of Celine. The plan is bankrolled by Woody Townes, a left-wing property developer (implausible, but not quite unbelievable), who is a more recent member of Celine’s entourage. Felix is to write an account of Gaby’s life that will save her from extradition to a place where no Angel Worm will gain entry.

Amnesia indeed

Carey chosoes words carefully. The Amnesia of his title indicates the way in which unpleasant and inconvenient truths are denied and forgotten. It was certainly the case for me, and the book sent me back to the story which has scarcely been referred to for half a century. The forgotten crisis demonstrated for perhaps the last time the ultimate control exercised by The British political system in resolving Australian internal affairs. It remains a live issue in Australia, and is a backdrop to the tensions towards self-determination so important today around the world, not least in the United Kingdom in the devolution debates in Scotland and elsewhere.

In Amnnesia, the story unfolds from the perspective of Gaby, as related to Felix, who reverts to type by stubbornly refusing to write anything but the truth. Various factors including the motives and intentions of Gaby, Celine, and Woody make Felix’s task increasingly difficult and dangerous.

More than Wikileaks without Assage

The book makes no mention of Australia’s most notorious hacker. But it is, anyway, more than Wikileaks without Assage. I chose to leak no further, beyond noting that the book was by far the most interesting one I read over the festive season.


Tony Abbott winks into a political controversy defending his budget cuts

May 22, 2014

A nod is said to be as good as a wink to a blind man, but for a leader, the public gaze is never blind

Australian politician Tony Abbott reacted to a moment of embarrassment during an ABC broadcast, [20th May, 2014] with a wink to the program’s presenter. He had appeared on the call-in show to defend budget cuts to health and education spending.

His embarrassment was produced by a call from ‘Gloria’ describing herself as a chronically ill 67 year old grandmother struggling with medical bills though his government’s budget cuts . Gloria gave a candid and emotional account of being forced to work on adult sex lines to pay for her medical needs.

His looking away and winking to the male Presenter went viral, interpreted as his disrespect for the sex worker or of her story.

What did he mean?

It is not important to prove his intentions. The social reality lies in how a public action of leader is interpreted. The interpretation will factor-in earlier actions and perceptions. Mr Abbott had previous form as rather casual in his remarks about women.

In the UK, comparisons were drawn with a recent story in which private emails of Richard Scudamore, a business leader were revealed to the public. The social reality was a perception of a leader with disrespect for a specific woman, and broadened to presumptions of casual sexism.

The stories bring out the post-modernist in commentators. Followers of the French postmodernist Foucault examine social events as ‘texts’ to be ‘deconstructed’. Foucault proposed a grand Discourse through which knowledge is produced and the hidden and suppressed voices of the powerless are heard.

While post-modern approaches remain contested, they consider that an interpretation of mine is no less worthy as a consequence of my flimsy grasp of the views of authorities. So here goes:

Tony Abbott’s wink ‘speaks’ of a moment of discomfort. He looks away from the source of embarrassment and his gaze connects with someone he believes to share his views. He is aware of the need to avoid alienating potential voters. He finds no form of words. His wink implies

I’m in it like a wombat in water. But I can still get out of it if I don’t show this slag what I really think. You see if don’t.

The power of the image

A wink is a wink is a wink. In the UK, it is often a nonverbal signal of complicity, the sign of ‘us’ in the near presence of the more-powerful them.

A friend, whose judgements on business matters I trust, falls in with the conspiracy theorists in his interpretation of an old photograph. It shows Lyndon B Johnson winking to a friend in public during the funeral of J F Kennedy . My friend believes the wink helps identify two conspirators in the murder of Kennedy. That’s one trouble with postmodernist deconstruction, sorting out the signal from the constructed reality.


In Chess, Carlsen keeps mum. In Cricket, Cook tells all?

November 14, 2013

In the build-up to the chess world championships Magnus Carlsen refuses to reveal who his support staff are. In Cricket, Australian captain Clarke says England’s captain kindly revealed his Cricket team to him. What’s all that about?

Two little stories about leadership, one from Chess, one from Cricket.

In India there are two sports stories this week about all-time greats. Sachin Tendulkar is playing his last international cricket match; and Viswanathan [‘Vishy’] Anand is defending his chess crown against the new chess prodigy and Norwegian ‘pawn star’ Magnus Carlsen.

Chess trends on Twitter

Yesterday, the official website of FIDE, the international chess organization, announced that chess had become the number one news item of all stories trending on Twitter. The rise of Indian chess owes much to Anand, who has help five world championships (if you include rapid play ones). Carlsen is being hailed as a mega-star who is bringing attention to chess globally .

Magnus keeps mum

At a pre-match press conference, the players were asked out their support teams. Vishy spoke glowingly of his back-up team who help in preparing openings and in studying the play of his opponent. The twenty two year old Magnus thanked him for the information but politely declined the invitation to respond.

Cook tells all

Half way around the world, Australia is hosting their fiercest cricket rivals England. In a remarkable press conference Australia captain Michael Clarke says England’s captain Alistair Cook has revealed the England team to him a week in advance of the test.

What’s all that about?

Vishy says that the players ‘exchanged information’ only after playing the first game. The rest could be no more than mis-information. The same might be true of whatever Cook did or did not say to Clarke.

Was Cook [or Clarke] being a silly billy?

We seem to be entering the region of mind games. Chess is the more obvious mind game, but more many athletes and sporting coaches have gone in for psychological warfare. I have trouble believing the headline that Cook told Clarke the names of the team for the forthcoming test.

Maybe Clarke is trying to make Cook look like a silly billy.


ONE THOUSAND POSTS: TEN INSPIRING WOMEN LEADERS

September 6, 2013

Leaders We Deserve has always regretted the gender bias in leadership cases. For our one thousandth post, here are ten female leaders in political life who deserve mention

Maybe this the shortest blog post ever in Leaders we deserve, but one pointing to a a serious bias in leadership cases. <a href="Takepart website“>The list of ten political leaders originally appeared on the Take Part web site which supplies excellent images of all ten women. They represent various shades of political opinion, sexual orientation, private and public controversies, education, background, and numbers of assassination attempts survived. Your editor intends to include them in the next edition of the textbook Dilemmas of Leadership.

How many of the leaders can you match with their countries without further web-surfing?

The Leaders:

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Angela Merkel
Dalia Grybauskaite
Dilma Rousseff
Johanna Sigurdardottir
Sheikh Hasina Wajed
Tarja Halonen
Laura Chinchilla
Julia Gillard
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

The Countries:
Argentina
Australia
Bangladesh
Brazil
Costa Rica
Finland
Germany
Iceland
Liberia
Lithuania

Acknowledgements

Takepart website where you can find images of all ten leaders.

Sean Gardner ‏@2morrowknight for his tweet which alerted me to the site.


Warren Gatland: Rugby’s effective answer to charismatic leadership

June 26, 2013

Warren GatlandThe Lion’s tour of Australia has thrust their coach Warren Gatland into the media spotlight. His appearance and actions demonstrate that effectiveness in a leader does not necessarily require a charismatic style

Warren Gatland has appeared in literally hundreds of news items during the Lion’s rugby tour of Australia. Dozens of commentators have offered their views of his strategic decisions. I have not come across any that have implied he is a charismatic leader. Nor had I come across severe criticism of the effectiveness of his decision-making in the areas of team selection and match preparation and tactics until the announcement [2nd July 2013] of the team to play the final and series-determining test match.

Effective and non-charismatic

That leads me to conclude that he is widely perceived as both highly effective and non-charismatic. Someone surfing the Leaders We Deserve site recently was searching for evidence that Gatland might be transactional in leadership style. He can show both transactional and transformational elements in his comments about players and their motivations.

His low-key press performances suggest that he is has an uncomplicated way of understanding the needs of his players which avoids the dangers of showing favouritism. This was important, because Gatland had coached the successful Welsh squad to success prior to the tour, and will resume duties after it. Journalists from the other Rugby playing countries England, Scotland and the combined Irish territories might have hinted at favouritism in selection. Gatland’s frank press conferences may have contributed to avoiding that criticism. The evidence is that he has largely addressed the dangers of demotivated ‘second class citizens’ playing only in the provincial games. This has bedevilled earlier tours including the one coached by [Sir] Clive Woodward.

Kicking out the box

I don’t like to capture leadership style as a fixed and unitary trait. Style is better (in my judgement) treated as a description of an important pattern of behaviour that may change with circumstances. That incidentally is the basis of situational leadership theory which suggests just that, offering style as variable according to circumstances or contingencies. Beware of boxing people into one fixed style of behaviour.

Level five leadership

I have written in the past about level five leaders in sport, a term attributed to Jim Collins. The theory is that charismatics have powerful influencing skills, but tend to be tripped up by their own ego. Level five leadership has been described as demonstrated by those who show fierce resolve with less intrusion of personal ego. Which may suit what we have seen of Warren Gatland recently. But I hope that assessment is not the same as putting him into a conceptual box.

I write this still uncertain if the Lions will win the three match test series. The outcome will not impact on the evidence of Gatland’s effectiveness or style.

Hero to zero?

The Warren Gatland story hit the headlines internationally through his selection decisions for the final test. The series decider took place after a one-point loss by the Lions in the second match. Gatland made several changes. These would have been controversial as the starting XV contained no Scottish representatives and ten players from Wales the country Gatland now coaches. But the most shocking omission was that of BOD (Brian O’Driscoll) Irish legend who would have been playing in hist last Lions test match. Gatland, it is worth noticing, was a successful coach of Ireland’s national team in the past. He had noticed and nurtured O’Driscoll’s great talent.

The selection was widely criticized, provoking bitterness and anger in the judgements of such authorities as Sottish commentator Ian Robertson, and by former Irish commentator Keith Wood. I found the hundreds of comments in web-discussion sites both depressing and enlightening. Fury and anger was directed towards Gatland. The most widespread comments were that he was an inept decision-maker, following a dubious strategy which involved picking his ‘own’ Welsh players. (Gatland is from New Zealand, incidentally, the country most fiercely competitive against Australia.). One more balanced comment reminded us that Gatland is notoriously unsentimental in his decision-making. At the start of the Lion’s tour he left behind Sean Edwards, his [English} coach to the Welsh team’s backs. Edwards Felt ‘gutted’ about the decision.

The most revealing comments indicate that Gatland should be judged on whether the Lions win the final test. I have explained above why I think that is a poor way of assessing a leader’s capabilities. But I welcome comments from LWD subscribers.


Social media helped the hunt for the murderer of Jill Meagher

September 28, 2012

The investigation of the disappearance of Jill Meagher in Melbourne, Australia appears to have been accelerated through the use of social media and CCTV footage released by the police

The search for a missing woman in Melbourne, Australia ended tragically but was immensely speeded up through the use of social media.

Jill Meagher a young Irish woman working for an Australian media company, ABC radio, went missing after leaving a bar in the early hours on Saturday [20th September 2012].

A Facebook page was set up to raise awareness drawing on CCTV footage. Within days the police were able to identify and interview a suspect, and locate Jill Meagher’s body.

The breakthrough

The breakthrough came a day after police released CCTV video taken from the store, which showed a man wearing a hoodie talking to Ms Meagher, 29, at 1.43am on Saturday as she walked home after a night out with ABC work colleagues. Police say they were led to the scene by the man charged with the murder and rape of Ms Meagher.

The role of social media

In a statement issued on behalf of the family, Mr McKeon [Jill’s uncle] said: “We are devastated…There are no words to describe how we feel at what has happened. We acknowledge the role that social media has played in the search for her. It has helped us to reach a conclusion, although it is not the one we had hoped and prayed for.

The down side

Social media coverage is not a universal good. On the down side, even in this case, a senior Melbourne police chief joined with Jill Meagher’s grieving husband in calling for people not to post anything on social media websites which might prejudice the trial of the man accused of killing her.

Technology and crime

Police investigations often take advantage of the potential of technological inventions.

In 1910, less than a decade after the commercialisation of wireless system, the captain of the westward bound SS Montrose, asked his Marconi operator to send a brief message to England: “Have strong suspicions that Crippen London cellar murderer and accomplice are among saloon passengers. Accomplice dressed as a boy. Voice manner and build undoubtedly a girl.” A detective from Scotland Yard boarded a faster ship and arrested [Crippen] before SS Montrose docked in Montreal.

See also

Crime investigator outlines procedures