AFL Grand Final Draw Calls For Simple Leadership

As a guest of the AFL Coaches Association for their annual Awards Dinner during the week, little did I realise that I would hear some fateful words of advice for the 2010 AFL Grand Finalists.

Legendary coach Ron Barassi was being inducted into the AFL Coaches Association Hall of Fame. As part of his induction, premiership player (and later a coach in his own right) Stan Alves was delivering a speech regarding the special characteristics of his former coach.

Part of Alves’ speech focussed on the 1977 drawn Grand Final. Alves shared the absolute confusion that swept the players and officials immediately after the final siren sounded.

“We were spent. I was spent. None of us knew what we were supposed to do. It was absolute mayhem.”

Alves shared that when the players, officials and supporters made their way into their rooms, the confusion seemed more intense than out on the ground. Then Ron Barassi did what he did best. He focussed everyone on what needed to be done.

First Barassi asked the players to go into the meeting room and to sit in the order in which they had played.

“Henshaw, you were in the back pocket so you sit here, now everyone else sit in your playing positions.”

Club officials were then invited into the room and Barassi instructed that the meeting room door be left open so that all the supporters who had entered the rooms could hear what he was about to say.

Alves reported that this is what Barassi instructed his players to do.

“If you do the two things that I am about to tell you, and then you turn up to training in the morning, we will win the premiership. Number one, turn up to the club function tonight. Number two, go home at 10pm. Do these two things and we will win the premiership.”

Alves reported that immediately upon Barassi finishing his short speech, the sense of confusion evaporated.

Barassi was able to get everyone, players, officials and supporters to focus on some simple actions. Doing this enabled everyone to have clarity about what they needed to do. In many ways the simplicity of the actions enabled everyone to say to themselves, “Yeah, I can do those two things.”

Barassi’s actions highlight that keeping things simple and helping people to focus on what is doable are magnificent leadership traits in the face of confusion and uncertainty.

For those of you who don’t know, Barassi’s North Melbourne went on to win the Grand Final Replay the following week.

I wonder how St Kilda and Collingwood are coping with their current situation? Will similar leadership to Barassi’s example be present?

What are your examples of leadership that enabled people to focus on simple actions that helped them to cut through complexity and confusion?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
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