Sir Clive Woodward: leadership in difficult times

Exclusive interview: Sir Clive Woodward talks to BCMS about leadership, finding strength in adversity and building trust in your teams.

Known to millions as the man who took England to Rugby World Cup glory in 2003, Sir Clive Woodward knows more than most about assembling and leading a successful team.  In this full half-hour interview – filmed exclusively for BCMS during the first nationwide lockdown in 2020 – Sir Clive talks to BCMS’ Mark Bentley about turning failure into success, why ‘teamship’ is as important as leadership, and why sometimes it’s the small things that can really make the biggest difference.

“This is happening – but when we come out the other end, we’ll be stronger for it” – Sir Clive Woodward OBE

Despite the success of 2003, it was a very different story in 1999. Following England’s first World Cup outing with Sir Clive at the helm, in which the team crashed out in the quarter finals, calls were soon made that he wasn’t the man for the job. Instead of focusing on what might have been, Sir Clive made the decision to learn from such a difficult time. It proved to be a highly useful move. “I learnt so much about myself and my team – you find out the people who really step forward in times of adversity, which we’re finding out now.”

With such an understanding, this can help to build objectives for the future, and aid in developing a team that can work to each other’s strengths. Fostering this culture of ‘teamship’, as Sir Clive calls it, can help to define goals and share responsibility.

In times like these, business leaders can often feel compelled that drastic decisions need to be made and feel the pressure to radically innovate. Yet despite a highly successful career in both business and sport, Sir Clive feels this is something he avoids. ‘I’ve never really had one big idea that’s suddenly changed things – but we became quite good at breaking things down, and we get all the details right. All the little bits add up.”

Sir Clive’s interview is just one of many videos recorded exclusively for BCMS during the pandemic, designed to offer guidance and advice to business leaders. They are all available on our dedicated YouTube channel. Other interviewees include Gavin Hastings, Lord Bird of The Big Issue, and Terry Waite.