England Rugby's Liberating Leader
There's a great article in The Times this morning about Eddie Jones and the impact he's had on the players in the England team. Without using the words 'Liberating Leader' this is exactly what is being described.
So what's a 'Liberating Leader'? It's a term we use at GiANT Worldwide to describe a leader that's worth following. It's someone who is able to calibrate both high support and high challenge in the lives of those they lead. It's the ability to understand and connect with other people in a way that understands how to get the very best from that person. Eddie Jones has empowered his players by allowing them to step up and lead, by allowing them to make decisions which effect them and, perhaps most important of all, by being prepared to have the tough conversations.
Sometimes people can confuse being a liberator with being nice to people. Eddie Jones doesn't do that. What he does is understand the people of the other side of him and work out what he needs to do and say to them in order to help them unlock their full potential. It requires a huge amount of self-leadership to be able to do this well as most people are afraid of losing control or worry that it won't be done as well as if they did it themselves.
While much of the coverage of Jones focuses on his cutting wit and the article mentions his ability to make grown men cry, I don't believe that this stems from a desire to hurt. In order to be a true Liberator it is necessary to speak the truth to people and the truth can hurt. However, as long the person on the receiving end knows that the criticism is coming from a place of wanting to help that person become the best that they can be and the person giving the critique is dedicated to helping the person to improve then the tears don't represent unnecessary cruelty, they represent the start of something new and something truly powerful.
England's semi-miraculous reboot under Jones isn't down to luck or other teams playing badly. It's what happens when a leader is unafraid to be themselves, has the confidence to let go and empower others, and is willing to have the tough conversations that many other people have shied away from.