The old saying pressure makes champions, does not apply in tonights Super Rugby match when no pressure finally created a champion Crusaders Super Rugby performance.

In the build up to tonights match I heard a sports commentator say the dynasty was over with the Crusaders Super Rugby team not likely to make the playoffs, although they are still a distant mathematical chance, it is unlikely. Also in a radio interview, Dan Carter said it was disappointing now they can’t make the play-offs.

Therefore now the pressure is off, it seems no accident that they play their best rugby this week. Having previously made many mistakes this season, something had seemed adrift and it all points to something in the culture or coaching to do with pressure and expectation. Sure a few other factors were different in this match such as some team changes but why did it take 14 games before they fired? I believe it is leadership and culture, helped this week with Richie MaCaw as captain who did most of the talking at half time. While he is an inspirational leader, the issues runs much deeper this Super Rugby season.

What Creates Success?

The core of any success is intrinsic motivation, which is motivation from within the individual, rather than extrinsic motivation, which is external motivation in order to earn a reward or avoid a punishment.

A great leader looks to channel the team’s intrinsic motivation as team spirit, their culture driving the team to success. A less effective leader may drive the team towards certain objectives this leader has chosen, creating a disconnect from the team’s intrinsic drive or motivation.

Also in professional sport sometimes the focus gets lost of why we play the game. The fundamental belief is to go out and enjoy the game, and winning of course heightens this enjoyment, yet when the culture and focus is not from within, then external coaching pressure can cause a team and leadership disconnect.

Previously I have been very critical of Todd Blackadder’s coaching ability, as during his time as head coach of The Crusaders, the team performances have been inconsistent but another leadership question is now the CEO.  During an interview with Tony Veitch, Hamish Riach, who is The Crusaders CEO , said that distractions of a Rugby World Cup campaign and offshore contract negotiations, are hurting the chances of the Crusaders in Super Rugby! (Click here to listen to the interview) This seems like an example of poor leadership due to excuse making.

He also asked how do you get your All Blacks motivated in a world cup year! Very typical of a poor culture is when people need motivation. In a great culture the intrinsic player motivation is enhanced and an inspired united team chemistry helps to build motivation and peak performance results.

Successful leaders are careful to stay away from making excuses that draw them away from creating the best possible solutions. Excuse making can create blind spots, reducing expectations rather than staying focused on how to always get the absolute best performance all the time.

Leaders create the expectations, this may include some unconsciously blind spots that reduce team chemistry. For example if Hamish Riach had said that distractions of a World Cup campaign and offshore contract negotiations had been a challenge this year but we as a group have looked at how we can make the most of such challenges to be more successful as a team unit. This would then show he has not hiding behind excuses, as he was more solution focused. This type of response (Click here to listen to interview) would have shown strong inspirational solution focused leadership, yet it seems both Todd Blackadder and Hamish Riach have big question marks around their leadership.