Facing the All Blacks HAKA Challenge

A look at what it takes to conquer some of the biggest challenges life throws at you.

October 26, 2020

3 min read


The All Blacks are the most feared Rugby team in the world. They are ruthless, brave, courageous and they are winners. The All Blacks have won three Rugby World Cup championships in 1987, 2011 and 2015. There winning percentage over the last decade is over 90% and in 2008 as the Captain of the Manu Samoan team I stood on the field facing them- Facing the Haka the most fearsome war challenge in the world.

As one of only a handful of International Captains to ever face the All Blacks Haka, I had the task to bravely lead the Manu Samoa team. The mammoth task was made even more complicated when 90% of the professional Samoan players were not released to play against the All Blacks in 2008. Imagine your team not turning up to work on the most important project of the year? How would that impact your business? How would you feel? With the current Covid-19 situation this is by far a once in a lifetime event-Facing the Haka Challenge.

Elite Sports teams are similar business teams and leadership. My experiences in facing leadership challenges led me to create the H.A.K.A leadership Keynote and High Performance programme. There are 3 successful Leadership Habits which cover these key areas.

1. Adaptability

2. Knowledge

3. Attitude

Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker coined the phrase "Culture eats strategy for breakfast". How you lead teams starts with how your organisation culture thrives. The All Blacks culture changed in 2004 when Graham Henry was appointed head coach. Henry along with Wayne Smith and coaches strategically changed the culture. Players were not happy and many of senior players knew things had to change.

Without going into too much detail Henry transformed his coaching philosophy and it impacted the way the team played. Leading into the 2007 Rugby World Cup the All Blacks were the favourites and eventually lost in the quarter final to France. It was then in 2011 they met the resilient French team in the final and only just winning in a tense action packed final.

How do you lead in times of crisis? What are you communicating to your board and executive team? Do you have a plan to prepare your team to adapt and change? The H.A.K.A Framework is developing mental resilience. How you can face the challenges and mentally adapting to a new way of doing things. Your leadership determines what comes next and needs a clear strategy and planning for the new normal. Transformation change starts with the leadership and the individual responsibilities and organisational purpose and what a leaders needs now is to communicate effectively.

Adapting is about preparing for the opportunities that lay ahead. Much has been written about the future of work and automation or AI and the impact this will have on many low skilled workers. Being alert and knowing your role.

“Adaptability is key to a satisfying and successful work life says Dr Max McKeown, author of Adaptability: The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty.”

Mckeown argues that the ability to adapt are one the key requirements of people in business who are successful. It is skill that the future of agile work is leading towards, and a skill that is teachable for businesses for their employees. Dr McKeown argues that “All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation. Investing in high adaptability will lead to higher returns because people will redivert energy wasted in what doesn’t work into new success.”

If you are interested to know more about the Facing the HAKA Leadership programme, go to the programme section and fill the forms.

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