Eddie Jones, England Rugby coach, now ’10 for 10’ as they would say in the US (10 wins from 10 games played if you are not familiar with the jargon) has said that he “wants to make himself redundant.” That should be the aim of every great leader.
I had the enormous privilege to sail on the 1996/97 BT Global Challenge. A yacht race for amateur crews the ‘wrong way’ around the world. I have often been called brave for doing that, but the real heroes were those who sailed in the original British Steel Challenge – and my skipper, 3 years later on, was one of those.
Simon Walker sailed as Mate on Rhone Poulenc in the British Steel Challenge. They had three different skippers on the way round so Simon became the de facto leader of the crew. Astonishingly, that achievement was not enough to get him a role as skipper on our race. He had to work very hard to convince Sir Chay Blyth that a whole sequence of Atlantic crossings as skipper, plus a win in an around Britain and Ireland race, together with other exploits most of us can only dream of, qualified him to lead our Toshiba Wave Warrior crew around the world.
Fortunately for all of us on Simon’s crew, Sir Chay recognised leadership when he saw it in action. And here’s the point. Simon told us before we set out that his major goal for the race was to spend the entire last leg (the almost insignificant Atlantic crossing from Boston back to Southampton – just 3,000 mile across an ocean which has sunk the Titanic amongst many others) in his bunk, sleeping.
So what kind of leadership is that? Well it is the kind of leadership that endeavours to teach others everything the leader knows and set them free to continue the journey on their own. In fact Simon achieved his ambition for the race as we sailed into Boston harbour on the penultimate leg. Under the tightly focussed cameras of a fleet of motorboats and helicopters filming and broadcasting the event on live TV, our crew performed a dancing sequence of spinnaker gybes – complex manoeuvers on a 67 foot yacht travelling at over 20 knots in crowded conditions – without a single hitch. Perhaps the proudest moment of our entire trip around the world was hearing Simon say that he had done nothing as we negotiated our way to the finishing line there, except wander around the deck and take photographs.
So, go on Eddie Jones. Once you have made England world champions, beaten everyone who has faced you and your team down, then yes please show us all the finest example of leadership anyone can – and make yourself redundant. I’m with you on that.