What is your legacy going to be?
I have been told that I am a difficult person to buy presents for, but if you are ever in doubt, buy me a book. I have always had a passion for books (albeit slightly jaded at the moment due to the amount of academic reading that I have) and this Christmas I was fortunate to have been given a few great books, but the one I immediately started to read is ‘Legacy – what the All Blacks can teach us about the Business of Life’ by James Kerr. Kerr was given access to the All Blacks for five weeks in 2010, when they were at their peak performance – that year they convincingly won the Tri-Nations as well as beating (trashing) every Home Nation on tour. He was able to get an unique insight into what makes an All Black under the leadership of arguably the world’s best rugby coach – Graham Henry. The infographic distils the book into the ‘First XV’, fifteen All Black principles that are elaborated in the book.
I do not propose to consider all fifteen principles, but I will focus on just one sentence in the first few pages that really spoke to me. He suggests that the All Black’s success is based on the leadership culture that they have developed:
‘It is a facilitated style of interpersonal leadership in a learning environment concerned with adaptive problem solving and continuous improvement and in which humility – not knowing all the answers – delivers strength.’
• Interpersonal Leadership. Simply put leaders lead people. Sometimes it is all too easy to concentrate on the objective and forget that without the team supporting the leader, the leader is nothing. Field Marshal Sir William Slim, an outstanding leader summed it up thus:
‘Know the bolts and nuts of your job, but above all know your men. When you command a platoon you ought to know each man in it better than his own mother does. You must know which man responds to encouragement, which to reasoning, and which needs a good kick in the pants. Know your men.’ 
• Learning Environment, Adaptive Problem Solving and Continuous Improvement. I have grouped these three aspects together as they are inter-linked. Great leaders understand that we can continuously improve what has gone before, to enable this they must nurture a learning environment that accepts mistakes. Fundamental to this is a growth mindset which enables everyone to feel that they can adaptively solve problems. The attitude to mistakes is a very interesting one which has been analysed over the past 30 years by the psychologist Professor Carol Dweck. Her ‘growth v fixed mindset’ argument has been nothing short of inspirational in many fields such as sport, education and even parenting. There are some great videos to watch, such as this introduction by minutevideos.com; but it is always good to hear it from the guru themself – here is Professor Dweck giving a ten minute TED talk, on the ‘Power of Yet’.
• Humility and Not Knowing all the Answers. According to IBM, every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. Not only are we faced with the issues of the quantity and quality of ‘big data’, we are further challenged by the speed at which the information and the situation changes. It is therefore impossible to know all the answers, but what is important is the understanding of how to acquire that knowledge and to accept that others may have the answers. In the military, we have moved far away from the autocratic leadership style of the last century to one which encourages a learning environment – especially in training:
‘As the rehearsal for operations, training is where all manner of foundations are laid: professional competence, the culture of organisations and innovative approaches through experimentation. Training is where teams develop trust and comradeship… High standards need to be set for subordinates, but also mistakes tolerated, otherwise the leader smothers initiative and stifles a ‘learning environment’.’ 
Allied to this learning environment is one of the key tenets the British Army’s doctrine – ‘mission command’, which is best summed up by this quote from General Patton:
‘Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.’
As 2017 rapidly approaches and we all consider possible New Year’s Resolutions, we could do much worse than embracing a growth mindset and learning environment that focuses on the people in your team and encourages them to use their initiative and ingenuity.
What is your legacy going to be?
The book’s bibliography entry is Kerr, J. M. (2013). Legacy. London: Constable.
 Field Marshal Sir William Slim, An Address to West Point 1953.
 ‘Developing Leaders: A British Army Guide’ Jan 14, Edition 1.