Pride, humility and planting trees for others (lessons from the All Blacks)

By Luke McKenna
I want to give a shout out to all educators who are committed to leaving a legacy. I have recently read the book Legacy, by James Kerr- What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life. It is a great book for anyone who wants to grow and be challenged as a leader (thanks to Bruce McPhee at Marist College, Ashgrove for the tip-off about this little gem of a read).
Below are some challenges that arose in my thinking and reflecting on this book, particularly regarding the chapters entitled "Sweep the Sheds" and “Be a good ancestor”. I should point out that this is not a sports book- although rugby is the context. It is a book about life, culture, leadership, teams and performance. These challenges might relate to yourself as an educational leader or teacher, and also to those students in your school who have had servant leadership bestowed upon them.


Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done. Successful leaders balance pride with humility; absolute pride in performance; total humility before the magnitude of the task.

The All Blacks live out this value. They are one of the highest performing sports teams of all times. They have a win rate of over 86%. Author James Kerr shares about an event that he witnessed in the All Blacks dressing room after yet another stunning victory. I have paraphrased this story below:

After the players had celebrated the win, the coaches and the captain had their say and the players were reminded to remember the sacrifices that they had each made to be in the room. Then as the players began to leave, two of the senior players each picked up long handled brooms and began to sweep the sheds. They brushed the mud and gauze into small piles in the corner. One of the players was an international player of the year, twice. While people all over the country were sitting at home in their lounge chairs watching replays; school kids lie in bed dreaming of All Blacks glory; and thousands of fans make their way home from the stadium; the All Blacks themselves were tidying up after themselves. Sweeping the sheds. Doing it properly. They do it after every game. It's not an insult to do it. It's a reminder of pride and humility. They do it so that no one else has to. It's an example of personal discipline. It's not expecting somebody else to do your job for you. It teaches you not to expect things to be handed to you. It is a simple action that reflects pride and humility.

The All Blacks believe that this discipline leads to their success. Andrew Mehrtens, Former all Blacks player and second highest point scorer of all time says "If you have personal discipline, then you are going to be more disciplined on the field. And if you have players that are disciplined on the field, you are going to have them pull together as a team. It's not going to make you win all the time, but it's going to make you better as a team over the long term." The All Blacks understand that a collection of talented individuals without personal discipline will ultimately, and evidently fail. Character triumphs over talent. Champion college basketball coach John Wooden says "winning takes talent. To repeat it takes character."  While American football coach Bill Walsh believes that "you get nowhere without character. Character is essential to individuals and the cumulative character is the backbone of your winning team."

What practices can you implement that are actions that cultivate pride and humility? Both in the staff room, and in the class room.


This section of the book is all about using our time and energy wisely, in a way that contributes positively to our world.

We are spending up our lives here on earth- giving our lives every day. The cause better be worth the cost. We’ve only got one life. We’ve chosen to do this with ours- so the cause better be damn good. The goal is not to beat the competition or to make money. The goal is to do the greatest thing possible, and become the best we possibly can be.
Our social footprint is the impact our life has on other lives. We are to leave the world in a better place. We are custodians of the future and the architects of tomorrow. Stewards of society. We must live with respect, humility and excellence. As an Old Greek proverb tells us “A society grows great when old men plant trees, whose shade they will never see”.
We can ask ourselves these questions, in the spirit of aligning ourselves with a cause that has personal meaning for us:
What is my job on the planet? What is it that needs doing, that I know something about, that probably won't happen unless I take responsibility for it?
Our answer might determine the greatest gift we could make of ourselves to the world. It might be our social footprint- our impact on other lives.
Our challenge- plant trees for other people.
<<Share this post with colleagues who are clearly committed to planting trees for others (whether it be colleagues, students, the community or the family).>>
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