Eddie Jones and why leaders over-reach

March 15, 2018

Eddie Jones

A video of England rugby coach Eddie Jones addressing a group of sponsors has reached the public. It makes an interesting case of a successful leader setting himself up to fail.

 

Background

The video was recorded several months ago. Eddie Jones is currently the coach of the England (male) rugby team. His appointment in 2015 was controversial. The premier national teams of the northern hemisphere have increasingly selected from coaches the most successful rugby nations. In practice this means coaches from New Zealand and the other Southern Hemisphere countries Australia and South Africa.

After a period of relative under-performing, England chose Eddie Jones, a colourful character of Australian, Japanese and American origins.
Jones played rugby to state level in Australia.. He then embarked on a coaching career mostly with spectacular successes, but not without the occasional setback. As coach of Australia he stared well but a series of successive losses ended his contract. His last loss was to Wales, a point which may have some further relevance.

He achieved success again as national coach to Japan. In rugby-playing terms, Japan is a minor nation. It also lacks an adequate supply of monstrous players in a game which has evolved to require high bulk and mobility. His style is a passionate one, invoking pride in his teams of national and cultural values. Rather than import hefty Samoans, he introduced a fearless flyweight style of play which brought shock wins and delighted spectators during the World Cup of 2015.
This track record, and Japan’s showing resulted in his appointment as England coach.

His initial impact was spectacular, and the team began to show potential to become a serious challenger for the next world cup. At the time of the video Jones could point to a remarkable turnaround of fortunes in results. His leadership impact was clearly a significant factor.
A run of twenty three matches was ended by a firy Irish team, which was also progressing well including a win over the near invincible New Zealand All Blacks.
In this summary I draw attention to the loss to Wales which coincided with Jones losing his Australian post, and then to the recent loss to Ireland which ended his winning streak.

The video

In the video, Jones is heard lauding his own success in converting Japan into an exciting new force in world rugby. He then turns to the defeat by Ireland.

“We’ve played 23 Tests and we’ve only lost one Test to the scummy Irish,” he told his audience. “I’m still dirty about that game, but we’ll get that back, don’t worry. We’ve got them next year at home so don’t worry, we’ll get that back.”

Jones was also recorded discussing Wales in the context of Japan Under‑20s losing 125-0 against their Welsh counterparts shortly after he took over as the Japan head coach in 2012. “Wales. Who knows Wales? Are there any Welsh people here? So it’s this little shit place that has got three million people. Three million!”

Dilemmas of leadership
Another dilemma of leadership. When a leader starts believing his or herself-constructed story. It has contributed to the aura around the leader. Some might call it the evidence of charisma. The leader flushed with success, acts out the self-image in terms which become dismissed as bluster or dismissive of others.

Remind you of any other leader?

Do these words remind you of another leader, often in the news for his provocative statements?

“I’m still dirty about that game, but we’ll get that back, don’t worry. We’ve got them next year at home so don’t worry, we’ll get that back.”

If so, what more general conclusions can we draw from the case of Eddie Jones? And is it coincidence that his team plays that “scummy team Ireland” this weekend, a team which has already won the six-nations championship from England this year, regardless of the result?


The Irish same-sex marriage referendum, and its footnote in history

May 25, 2015

The Irish referendum legalizing same-sex marriages will have its footnote in the history of social emancipation

Similar legislation permitting single-sex marriage has been enacted in some twenty nation states around the work over a period of years. However, the Irish vote has been claimed as the first such constitutional change achieved through the democratic vote. It resulted in a outburst of joy as crowds gathered in Dublin and around the country to welcome the ‘sixty percent’ Yes vote.

Read the rest of this entry »


Is Michael D Higgins the ultimate charismatic non-charismatic?

April 8, 2014

‘Michael D’ defies contemporary leadership stereotypes. A case could be made for saying that this man is the ultimate charismatic non-charismatic

The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins makes an historic state visit to England [April 8th, 2014]. The trip is redolent with symbolism, as was The Queen’s visit to Ireland three years ago.

According to popular theory, a leader in the public eye has to pass the celebrity test of physical attractiveness. Absence of media glamour is a bar to a successful political career. In the UK, Ed Milliband suffers from repeated media references to his lack of personal attractiveness predicating his non-electability as the country’s next Prime Minister. Dr Higgins has been lampooned for his unimpressive physical appearance and stature.

The Irish are different

The Irish appointed a different kind of leader as their President. The two previous incumbents were Mary Robinson followed by Mary McAleese. Lucky the land to have found such impressive heads of state.

Then there was ‘Michael D’

‘Michael D’ was appointed in what seemed another burst of creative contrarianism by the Irish electorate. At the time, I got the election seriously wrong. I noted that two charismatic candidates were spicing up the election campaign. Both dropped out of view and eventually did not run. Instead a veteran politician and scholarly academic was elected.

An important ingredient of charisma

The Irish voters listened to what Michael had to say, and voted him in. This week he showed why to an international audience. He is an impressive and empathic communicator. In advance of his State visit to England he was asked whether it was time to put aside the lingering scars in Ireland of a relationship of often bloody disputes. He replied in a moving and convincing way. No, he replied, he had no right to demand such a thing of his people although he hoped he could help movement forward toward a better future.

And that was the moment I understood a little more about his charisma.

Context

Much of this post will be understood differently from the perspectives of readers familiar with the historical and complex relationship between England and Ireland. [For example, the symbolism of the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 2011, and of this return visit] Some of the modern history is touched upon in the links to the post, which mainly focuses on the surprising nature of the charisma of the Irish President.


Donald Trump shifts his attention to Ireland after losing Scottish wind-farm legal battle

February 20, 2014

This week the resilient Donald Trump bounces back from losing his battle against off-shore wind farms which he claimed were wrecking his plans for a super resort and golf complex in Aberdeenshire.  It seems that Scotland’s loss is to be Ireland’s gain

Donald Trump has bought a five star golf resort on the west coast of Ireland after losing a legal action against a windfarm being built near his golf resort in Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

The billionaire property developer said that while he appealed against the court defeat in Scotland he would be diverting his energies to the exclusive Doonbeg golf and hotel complex on the Atlantic coastline of County Clare, restyling it the Trump International Golf Links, Ireland.

Trump had taken the Scottish government to court over a decision to approve a major experimental windfarm in Aberdeen Bay, which will be about two miles south east of his planned £750m golf resort, because it spoiled the view.

Trump’s tale

We have been followed the leadership style and actions of Mr Trump in LWD for some years.

His interest in building a world class golf facility in Scotland was dogged in legal controversies from the start. Initially, the legal objections came from environmentalists and local residents. Later, it was Mr Trump who sought legal rights to protect his interests.

Leadership style

The Trump style of leadership seemed blunt rather than devious or Machiavellian. This places him at some disadvantage over pressure groups whose leaders have long experience of challenging the powerful and drawing attention to their cause.  Maybe Donald trump will now learn from his experiences. Otherwise there will be one more extended story as the local bhoys prepare to deal with the latest foreign threat to their culture and coast line.


Is Denis O’Brien Ireland’s Rupert Murdoch?

April 20, 2012

The Irish entrepreneur and billionaire Denis O’Brien has a business career with similarities to that of Rupert Murdoch. He is currently believed to have been involved in moves to control Ireland’s Independent News & Media organization

I was struck by the account in this week’s Irish Times [April 20th 2012] of the boardroom changes in Ireland’s Independent News & Media organization [INM]. The story was presented as a clash between INN’s owners within a business empire founded by Tony O’ Reilly, and the business interests of the next-generation Irish entrepreneur Denis O’Brien who has become a major shareholder at INN.

With speculation mounting that dissident shareholder Denis O’Brien was planning to topple him, Independent News & Media’s chief executive Gavin O’Reilly raised the white flag and trudged off the battlefield.

O’Reilly was a marked man from the moment Leslie Buckley, O’Brien’s closest business associate, was dumped from the INM board last year.
The fact that INM’s operational performance has worsened over the past year also played a role in O’Reilly’s demise. No dividend has been paid since the crash. It was once considered the safest [investment] in town. Nothing O’Reilly said or did was able to arrest the slide. It is interesting to note that since its AGM last June, chairman Brian Hillery and the chief executive [Gavin O’Reilly ] have now both left.

O’Reilly’s exit means that for the first time since 1973 no member of Anthony O’Reilly’s family will be controlling INM’s affairs. What all of this means in relation to O’Brien’s plans for his INM stake remains to be seen. Many close to INM believe he has no intention of moving to acquire the company. There are substantial issues around his media ownership here, given his interests in six radio licences. Last night, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the [Irish] Government would “have a reflection on this in terms of cross-ownership of media”.

He may have gotten rid of O’Reilly but O’Brien has failed to gain control of the company, which many commentators presumed was his plan. Then again, perhaps that is the way he wants it. For now, at least.

Denis and Rupert

The career and leadership style of Denis O’Brien has some similarities with that of Rupert Murdoch. However, such comparisons risk over-simplifying complex issues, and need to be taken with a conceptual health warning.

Mr O’ Brien became a Portuguese resident thus avoiding paying taxes in Ireland.

A Government investigation [The Moriarty tribunal] examined his actions in the move which gave him his greatest financial boost. According to The Irish Times [3rd March, 2011] it found “beyond doubt” that [the then minister for transport, energy and communications] Mr Lowry gave “substantive information to Denis O’Brien, of significant value and assistance to him in securing the [mobile] licence”.

Update [Dec 11th 2012]

This week the IMM group’s financial position was assessed as week, and the company in need of drastic restructuring.


Ireland elects Michael D Higgins ‘to rock in the Dáil’

October 29, 2011

Ireland has elected veteran Labour politican Michael D Higgins as its President. The Saw Doctors provided an unusual note in an unusual campaign.

‘Michael D Michael D, up on his bikele D, Michael D Michael D rocks in the Dáil’ [Dáil rhymes with boil: Ed, LWD]

You can read a more prosaic account of the campaign and its swings in fortune in the Scotsman’s report [19 Oct 2011]:

A former lecturer in sociology and politics at University College Galway, Mr Higgins benefited from his standing as one of Ireland’s most liked and instantly recognisable politicians. During an often bad-tempered campaign, Higgins stayed above the fray and his record on human rights, in particular, won plenty of admirers. The next president is also one of Ireland’s strongest critics of US foreign policy.

Within hours of his election his moving acceptance speech belayed the suggestion that ‘Michael D.’ would be merely a figurehead, lacking in ideas and charisma. As the link indicates, his opposition to the ‘years of the Celtic tiger’ even won the Labour politician the approval of the English Daily Mail.

To go more deeply

The swings in the campaign are also covered in the post-election review from the BBC. Leaders we deserve [Sept 19th 2011] has also examined how charismatic candidates were adding spice to the campaign.


Charismatic candidates add spice to the Irish Presidential elections

September 19, 2011

Martin McGuinness

David Norris

The Irish Presidential Elections will be dominated by charismatic candidates including Senator David Norris and Northern Ireland’s deputy leader Martin McGuinness

News of the forthcoming Irish Presidential Election has been spiced up this week [September 18th 2011] with stories of Martin McGuinness and David Norris. For rather different reasons, neither name yet appears on the official list of candidates.

Martin McGuinness

The declaration of intent by Martin McGuinness [September 16th, 2011] came as a surprise even to political commentators

The surprise quickly turned to an appreciation that the move was a politically shrewd one on the part of his party, Sinn Fein:

If Martin McGuinness makes it to Aras an Uachtarain [the Irish seat of Government] it will mark one of the most remarkable political journeys possible in a lifetime … When he joined the Provisional IRA [Irish Republican Army] around 1970 … he could have been court-martialled for even talking about contesting elections. The Irish State and all its institutions were looked on as treasonous.

Now that is all water under the bridge. Instead of a backdrop of bombs, bullets and threats he goes into this election with Rev David Latimer’s description of him as “one of the great leaders of modern times” fresh in the public’s mind. [This refers to a story [9th Sept 2011] of a prominent Protestant cleric invited to Sinn Fein’s annual conference and publically praising McGuinness’s efforts as a Statesman].

Suddenly Sinn Fein [McGuinness’s party associated with the IRA’s the struggles for a United Ireland,and a major player in the peace process] no longer seems the edgy or dangerous choice it once did to southern {i.e. Republic of Ireland] voters.

A wider political story

A few weeks later, McGuinness announced his intentions to stand as President of Ireland. It became easier to see the David Latimer story for its wider political implications.

David Norris: will he, won’t he?

The second ‘might be’ candidate is former front-runner, Senator David Norris [Independent]. He has recently become the centre of a blogging storm .

Norris is widely regarded as a charismatic figure, and an openly gay civil rights campaigner. His withdrawal from the race has been attributed to a clemency letter he wrote to Israeli authorities on behalf of his former partner Ezra Nawi, who had been convicted for having sex with a 15-year-old boy. A variation of this suggests he was politically damaged by remarks he made about underage sex with boys.

At the time of writing [Sept 20th 2011] his re-emergence as a candidate remains unconfirmed.

The betting

Betting is still strongest on the two confirmed candidates (who have not even been mentioned in this post). Michael Higgins (Labour) is a near odds-on front runner; Gay Mitchell (Fine Gael) trails, and is only marginally ahead of McGuinness, and the still undeclared Norris.

The downside of charisma

Charismatic leadership has the potential to carry forward a vision or cause. Such leaders have been associated with great transformational movements particularly in global politics. They also attract fierce opposition.

While theorists talk of a post-charismatic era, the charismatic mode remains an influential force for social and political change. Martin McGuinness makes it clear he intends to stand as a candidate for a United Ireland. Controversy will rage over the time he fought for that cause as a member of the IRA.