Stuart Lancaster: Public failure made me a better leader

‘Failure is part of being a good leader, the best leaders use the hurt from failure’

Stuart Lancaster speaking at Pendulum Summit 2019 in the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Stuart Lancaster speaking at Pendulum Summit 2019 in the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Leinster senior head coach Stuart Lancaster says that public failure has made him a better leader.

The 49-year-old has resurrected his career with Leinster after he was sacked by the English Rugby Football Union in late 2015 after a disastrous World Cup as head coach.

Leinster’s fourth European Champions Cup victory last season has led to Lancaster, the team’s assistant coach, becoming something of an inspirational figure in rugby.

Speaking at the Pendulum Business and Self Empowerment Summit in Dublin on Wednesday, Lancaster said failing on the biggest stage in rugby was the best training for a comeback.

“Failure is part of being a good leader,” he told the crowd. “The best leaders use the hurt from failure to drive them. I failed on the public stage, and it’s what made me a better coach.

“I’m not Joe Schmidt (current Ireland coach), I’m not Marty Johnson (former England captain and coach), I’m not Eddie Jones (current England coach), I’m Stuart Lancaster and it’s important to be yourself. People want to see who you are, and pick up on that authenticity.”

Between leaving England and joining Leinster, Lancaster had short-term roles with the Atlanta Falcons, British Cycling’s world-class performance programme, the English FA and Counties Manukau in the Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand.

Lancaster said joining the Irish side he felt the homegrown team and strong sense of identity would be their greatest asset.

“When I joined Leinster, I told the players, ‘There’s no other team in Europe who will have a stronger track record as Leinster’, and wanted to make the players believe they could achieve and win the European Cup. Not once or twice beyond what they’d won already, our goal is to achieve five times, then we’ll go for six or seven.

“It’s the leaders’ responsibility to set the goal, and then you get Johnny Sexton or Rob Kearney saying, ‘I want to achieve that goal’.”

Identity, Lancaster said, was important to the England team too, and although he now works in Ireland, the passion remains the same.

At a time where identity has dominated much of the political discourse, and with the arrival of former London mayor and Brexit backer Boris Johnson at the summit on Thursday, Lancaster let his own feelings be known.

“Whether it’s England or Ireland, I think of us all as one big family, and you can tell Boris I said that tomorrow,” he said.

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