Management and leadership

5 leadership lessons from Lawrence Dallaglio

Andrew Evans | 18 Jul 2019

5 leadership lessons from Lawrence Dallaglio

Andrew Evans | 18 Jul 2019

In this article:

The rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio shared leadership lessons for automotive professionals at the 2019 IMI Annual Dinner


When it comes to witnessing and practising great leadership at close quarters, Lawrence Dallaglio has more experience than most.

Dallaglio was part of the England team that won the nation’s only Rugby Union World Cup so far, in 2003. He captained Wasps to repeated success, and was England’s captain and played on three different tours for the British and Irish Lions.

Dallaglio also played for some of the best coaches – and greatest leaders – in the sport. Talking to Steve Nash, the Institute of the Motor Industry’s CEO, at the 2019 Annual Dinner, he reflected on some of the qualities that made them so successful as leaders.

1.The greatest leaders make really bold decisions

Talking about Wales and British Lions coach Warren Gatland, Dallaglio said: “he’s an amazing guy – in any business things can be going brilliantly but at some point you’ve got to make big, bold decisions. Warren isn’t afraid to make those decisions, and I think history recognises that – he dropped Brian O'Driscoll for that last test in Australia [in 2013] and everyone was going, ‘What are you doing, you can’t drop Brian O'Driscoll’. But the two outstanding players on the field were the two centres that replaced him and we [the Lions] won the series. He made some big, bold decisions. The thing about him is that he was able to look you in the eye and deliver news that you didn’t always agree with but you respected – and make ruthless decisions as well.”

2. Great leaders set the agenda

Moving to England’s World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward, Dallaglio said he was “a pioneer and all about innovation. He was the guy who said, ‘we need a shirt to win us the World Cup’, so he got those skin-tight shirts. England used to follow what New Zealand did for many, many years and he was like, ‘I’m not having that, we’re going to start to pioneer our own ideas’ and that’s exactly what we did. Then the world started to copy what England was doing. I’m not sure the front and second row were particularly ple.ased with having to breathe in – trying to put those shirts on was hard work!”

3. Great leaders get things done

Across his domestic and international sporting career, Dallaglio played for many coaches "There’s differences in all great leaders, but similarities as well. I’ve learned huge amounts from all those men. They’re special human beings, special individuals."

In particular, he said, "Great leaders don’t do everything, but they get everything done. Someone far brighter than me said it, but that’s exactly true about those guys. They don’t do everything, but they find the right people to do certain things, but they get everything absolutely done."

4. They set high standards

The best leaders set the highest standards, said Dallaglio. “You can’t attempt to be successful without you having meticulously high standards yourself – and that’s what they did among the group we were involved in. It becomes very infectious, when you create that environment. All of those people created an environment that you wanted to be a part of and, dare I say it, it is about having a bit of fun as well. Any successful team knows how to enjoy itself.”

5. Great leaders can be very close by

Perhaps the strongest leadership influence in Dallaglio’s life has been his mother, Eileen Dallaglio. Aside from her role in badgering England coaches early in Dallaglio’s international career, he cited her strength and tenacity in pursuit of justice. Dallaglio’s elder sister, Francesca, was one of 51 people killed when the dredger Bowbelle hit and sank the Marchioness pleasure cruiser on the River Thames in 1989. The government of the day decided against holding a public enquiry into the accident. “So she bought one share in Ready Mixed Concrete [the owners of the Bowbelle] and turned up at the AGM. They talked about their annual profit, and this, that and the other, and when it got to any other business she stood up after two hours and said, “You murdered my daughter and 50 others,” and she spoke for two-and-half hours.

“She eventually got legislation turned round and a public enquiry six years later. It was an amazing achievement, to have the strength and courage to do that.”


Lawrence Dallaglio was talking to Steve Nash at the 2019 IMI Annual Dinner. A huge thank-you to our fabulous Annual Dinner sponsors, including headline sponsor Remit Group. Thanks to you all: SnapOn; London Motor & Tech Show 2019; Shell Helix Ultra; Saffron Insurance; Autotech Recruit; Alphera; Enterprise Rent-a-Car; BNP Paribas Cardif.  

To get involved with the IMI's centenary Annual Dinner in 2020, contact Wendy Hennessy.

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