After the remarkable victory of the Springboks, a wave of stories, articles and videos have inundated the media, focusing on Siya Kolisi and Rassie Erasmus and the profound implications of this triumph for South Africa. Rassie’s emotional and heartfelt return at OR Tambo was nothing short of breathtaking, and the moment Siya corrected a journalist, asserting that he was not just the Rugby World Cup-winning captain, but the Double World Cup-winning captain, showcased his authenticity and ability to say it like it is and speak from the heart. I previously expressed on social media that it is always such a pleasure listening to Siya because he speaks from the heart and his heart is genuinely beautiful.

Today, I don’t intend to cite interviews or delve into the Springboks’ victory. Instead, I want to encourage all of us to reflect on our own capacity for leadership. This is universally relevant; regardless of age, position or title, as we are all leaders in our own lives and possess the potential to lead, influence and inspire our communities.

Leadership is such a multifaceted and intricate concept, what follows are my insights into the most crucial leadership qualities. My wish is that the Springbok victory prompts us to contemplate the essential Key Steps we need to take to truly… 

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

  1. Love and live it. When we lead with passion, walk the talk and embody our values it radiates through everything we do. Leaders also know that they don’t always have to be the one leading and can delegate the responsibility to the person most suited to “live” that responsibility in the moment. Do you live your values? Where can you delegate and empower others more?
  2. Energy. How do you refuel and manage your energy? Where do you spend your energy? What is your leadership presence like? If someone were to speak of your energy, what would they say? Energy is the essence of who we are, and we must harness it and manage it to leave the legacy we desire.
  3. Accountability. Without accountability, genuine leadership cannot exist. Trusting relationships can only be built when we hold ourselves and others accountable. Every player on that field was accountable and understood their responsibilities. We witnessed Cheslin Kolbe visibly grappling with the burden of his red card, fearing that he had jeopardised his team’s victory. No accountability. No trust. No leadership.
  4. Determination. This kind of determination is fuelled by passion and purpose. It’s the unwavering desire to accomplish the task at hand, both individually and collectively. It necessitates initiative, persistence, drive, resilience, flexibility and adaptability, qualities that the Springboks exhibited during the RWC… Qualities of emotionally intelligent leaders.
  5. Empathy in action. As the final whistle sounded, we saw Siya run to Kolbe, lift his head out of his shirt, embrace him and alleviate his anxiety. This is empathy in action – recognising and validating the emotions of another. If I were to highlight one crucial leadership skill, it would be empathy. How well do you recognise your own emotions? Can you label and reflect on them? Can you identify and empathise with your team and loved ones and truly aim to understand their emotions?
  6. Relationships first. If we get empathy right, better relationships follow. Great leaders put relationships at the heart of everything they do. We saw this reflected when Siya was asked how he felt after winning the RWC. The first thing he said was about his opponents, “I want to give credit to the All Blacks. They took us to the end; they took us to a dark place.” This speaks to empathy and how important relationships are – even those with other teams. How well do you nurture relationships to enable mutual respect? Without relationships, there is no leadership.
  7. Strategy second. People look to leadership for hope, for a plan and for inspiration to do greater things. Having a well-defined strategy is imperative to our success. The main objectives of strategic leadership are to streamline processes, boost productivity, promote innovation and cultivate an environment that encourages everyone to be their best self, to be optimally productive, independent and to drive innovation. What is your strategy for the rest of 2023 and beyond?
  8. Honesty and vulnerability. Some have mentioned that Siya’s interviews might be considered sentimental or exaggerated, but they don’t… He resonates and captivates because of his honesty and authenticity. Authentic leaders, who speak and live from the heart, are magnetic and inspire those around them. Are you open-hearted, vulnerable and honest in your leadership? Who do you inspire and…
  9. Influence with integrity. Brené Brown’s definition of integrity is one of my favourite… Do you do what is right over what is fun, fast or easy? I can honestly say, not always. There are times where I do what is fast and my brain takes the path of least resistance. I like to think that where it really counts, I do what is right even when it’s really hard. We must continually seek feedback and learn and grow to uphold our integrity.
  10. Purpose. When passion and purpose are married, it creates a powerful force. We see this in the Springboks. They weren’t playing to win the RWC, well of course they were but the deeper purpose – the BIG burning WHY – was playing to unite a nation and to provide hope. This is what sets us apart from our competitors and drives us to go that extra mile.

What comes up for you as you reflect on your own leadership? I wish you a week – and life – ahead filled with many Key Steps to harness your leadership potential and…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’



NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’