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From the pitch to the boardroom: How rugby can empower leadership in the corporate world

Oct 3, 2023

Rugby, representing values ​​that are also relevant in the business world, can help individuals develop not just athletically but also as leaders in the workplace. In this capacity, it can break down some of the barriers that women traditionally face.

What do the captain of a rugby team and the manager at a company have in common? Both motivate, evaluate, train, and – of course – communicate with a group of people. In both cases, a leader must thoughtfully assign the available roles, foster a group spirit, and instill collective momentum by encouraging everyone to work together.

There are, of course, notable differences between the world of the oval ball and that of business. The profiles are more homogeneous (in terms of age, gender, etc.) in a rugby team than in the office. The pace is also different: a few hours in the field versus five days of work per week. And, above all, if one is allowed to take the time to find their bearings at the start of the sports season, the business world may be less patient. The manager is expected to mobilize their team to bring about results as quickly as possible.

The art of being a good leader

Business has always shared many values with the sport. Whether you are a rugby captain or a manager, the most important quality can be summed up in one word: trust. The trust you inspire and the trust you give. You must be able to make decisions that set the collective in motion while giving everyone the space needed to take the personal initiatives that will in turn fuel the group’s dynamic. Another essential quality is passion, which a leader must be able to transmit to and nurture within their team.

Taking leadership skills from the pitch to the office

From stadium turf to the office carpet, the lessons learned from sports are as relevant as ever. Managers need to be able to adapt and question their habits to succeed in defusing conflicts and easing tensions and they must be flexible in order to navigate a fluid environment. It’s a question of both mindset and organization. And it requires a certain intellectual agility – the ability to question the way one works and change direction when necessary.

The values ​​of rugby and sport can aid and inspire decision-makers in their daily lives and careers.

Solidarity, cooperation, collective intelligence, team spirit, respect, and courage – these values, which are fundamental to achieving success in sport, are just as relevant to leaders in other environments.

Sport is a particularly good avenue for developing soft skills, which are in turn highly prized in the professional world. They can complement an individual’s professional skills by enabling them to effectively accomplish tasks within a larger group that requires one to navigate various relationships. Sport also fosters personal development, improving individual well-being, which subsequently helps workers develop better within their companies.

Sport as a vehicle of inclusion

Another advantage of sport, and rugby in particular, is that it contributes to the inclusion of women in the workplace, and especially to their promotion to leadership positions.

Although it took a long time to emerge – the French women’s team was born at the very end of the 1980s – women’s rugby is developing more and more. Illustrating the progress, France had more than 26,000 registered female rugby players in 2022.

And the sport is starting to occupy television screens with, for example, the broadcast of the 2023 Women’s Six Nations Championship. This growth in coverage is just the beginning. Media coverage contributes to developing the sport, which is proving to be an important source of empowerment through which women can acquire leadership abilities that are valued in management positions.

Rugby enables women to affirm their personalities, express themselves, and develop a fighting spirit. Importantly, it gives them the confidence to strive for positions traditionally dominated by men. Rugby and business thus work side by side to facilitate women’s access to leadership – and that’s great news!

With our three-year partnership announced in September 2021, we joined the Worldwide Partners family for Rugby World Cup 2023 and became World Rugby’s Global Digital Transformation partner. Rugby World Cup France 2023 is set to be the major attraction in the sporting calendar this year, bringing the rugby family and new fans together for a celebration of 200 years of the sport. Capgemini has worked with France 2023 to enhance the tournament’s unforgettable moments on and off the field.

Women in Rugby

Global Partner of Women in Rugby and Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2021