What both business people and athletes can learn from the All Blacks rugby team

by | Jan 18, 2023 | Business Insights | 0 comments

What do a successful rugby team and cycling team have in common? And how does this relate to your business or to you as an individual leader or athlete? These questions came to my mind when I read an article about the successful Dutch cycling team Jumbo-Visma (Dutch article, login required). They have been heavily inspired by other successful teams, like the Chicago Bulls, Barcelona, and the All Blacks, with the desire to create a comparable legacy. This means not just winning, but being culturally different and redefining how the game is played. Isn’t that the same for building a successful business or becoming an exceptional athlete or business manager? I believe you can learn from the most successful rugby team in the world, the renowned New Zealand All Blacks, and the mantras that guide their success both on and off the field.

What business can learn from sports

The book “Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life” by James Kerr delves into the secrets of the All Blacks rugby team and their mantras. Published in 2013, the book explores inspiring and versatile mantras. Not only can other sports teams learn from them, but they can also be applied to various other areas of life. For instance, many successful triathletes live by these mantras, which I experience on a daily basis. Additionally, as Christine Kininmonth highlights, these principles can be applied to business. Business leaders who are active in sports will likely see the parallels immediately. The All Blacks’ approach to leadership and team management offers valuable lessons.

The importance of mundane tasks

One of the key mantras in the book is “Sweep the sheds: Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done“. This encourages the team to focus on the small, mundane tasks and to take pride in them, as they are essential to achieving success. For them this includes cleaning the smelly dressing room, like the Japanese team (and audience as well) showed at among others the 2022 soccer World Championships in Qatar. For business leaders, this means focusing on the small details of their business operations and taking pride in the work, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. For athletes, this could mean focusing on the small details of training, such as proper stretching and nutrition, rest and sleep, as well as taking care of their equipment. It’s important to remember that even the small things can make a big difference.

What is your why?

Another important mantra is “Play with purpose: Ask Why?“. The only way a team effectively pulls together in one direction is by knowing their higher purpose. The sense of direction is needed to create belief and personal meaning in each player. A clear vision, well-communicated, is what keeps the All Blacks surging forward, and successful teams energised. For the All Blacks this vision became: “Better people make better All Blacks“, emphasising the importance of personal growth and development. What would this be for you or for your team?

Positivity and inclusivity

Another key mantra is “No dickheads“. The All Blacks have a zero-tolerance policy for negative behaviour, promoting a positive and inclusive culture. For business leaders, this means fostering a positive work environment and promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity. This is particularly important in today’s business world, where companies are competing to attract top talent and retain their employees. By promoting a positive and inclusive culture, business leaders can attract and retain the best employees and improve the overall performance of their companies.

Become a better you

Work harder on yourself than you do on your job” is another mantra that can be applied to business leaders. This mantra encourages self-improvement and personal development. For business leaders, this means committing to ongoing personal and professional development and striving to be the best version of themselves. This includes things like learning about leadership, management, and industry trends. By focusing on personal growth and development, business leaders can improve their performance and reach their full potential as leaders.


The All Blacks’ focus on teamwork, personal development, and humility is also valuable for business leaders. The mantra “The team before the individual” stresses the importance of teamwork and the collective success of the group over individual achievement. For business leaders, this means valuing collaboration over competition and working for the success of the team. This can be achieved by creating a team-oriented culture, promoting transparency and fostering a sense of trust among employees.

In conclusion, the principles outlined in “Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life” by James Kerr show that lessons learned in sports can be applied to business. The mantras outlined in the book, such as “Sweep the sheds,” “Better people make better All Blacks,” and “Leave the jersey in a better place,” can help business leaders focus on the small details, invest in personal growth and development, and leave a positive legacy for future generations. By adopting these mantras, business leaders can strive for excellence and achieve success in their companies.

Picture credits: Sonya & Jason Hills from London, UK – 2006_11_18_200413, file source: Wikimedia


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