Siya Kolisi: A brilliant model of the type of leadership we need in today's world

What Can We Learn from World-Acclaimed Springbok Captain Siya Kolisi’s Personal Leadership Brand?

Just a few weeks ago, the whole of South Africa was on the edge of their seats, hearts pounding with pride as the Springboks, under the inspiring and one-of-a-kind leadership of Siya Kolisi, pulled off their fourth win in Rugby World Cup history.

Securing three heart-stopping one-point victories in the knockout stage – first against France, then England, and ultimately overcoming their arch-rivals New Zealand – led the Boks to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the second consecutive time. This incredible team showcased the true power of leadership.

It’s almost impossible to put into words for those who aren’t South African just how much this win means to us. It’s much, much bigger than the game itself. Our country has faced its fair share of challenges, with a history marked by racial injustice and division. But today’s rugby team, especially Siya, is a symbol of hope that manages to cut through all the difficulties we’ve been through and heal the wounds of our troubled past.  

This young man’s power to influence not just his team and our nation, but the entire world, is a testament to the strength of his unique personal leadership brand.

Siya Kolisi: A brilliant model of the type of leadership we need in today’s world

The media has been buzzing with admiration for Siya Kolisi’s leadership prowess after the Boks created history on 28 October 2023. Some South Africans have even gone as far as to propose that he should run for president.

It’s been a while since someone has successfully won over the hearts and minds of our nation in a way reminiscent of former president Nelson Mandela. Now, seeing Siya do that is just incredible. From a young dreamer who grew up on the streets of Zwide, a township in the Eastern Cape, to an icon that proudly embodies the colours of the South African flag, Siyamthanda Kolisi has managed to unite South Africa and make people from all corners of the globe genuinely believe in him and want to rally behind him. Through ensuring that his personal leadership brand mirrors his core values, Kolisi has built trust, credibility, and influence as a leader – placing the world at his feet.

According to the latest Brand Asset Valuator (BAV) report, Siya Kolisi’s Brand Asset Value has reached 97.7%. This places him at the forefront in various categories, including: #1 most Quality Brand, #1 Leadership Brand (surpassing politicians), #1 most Down-to-Earth Brand, #1 Kindest Brand, and #1 Friendliest Brand. As if that’s not enough, he also secured the second position as the Toughest Brand and the sixth position as the most Charming.

When his brand equity scores were compared to those of our prominent political figures, Kolisi came out on top. The people have spoken and what they want is for the man leading our rugby champs to make a move into parliament.

What should business leaders take away from the extraordinary brand that is Siya Kolisi?

Siya Kolisi is a pure, raw, empathetic, and authentic leader. When he speaks, everyone listens. Not because they have to; because they want to. Very, very few leaders have the ability to do that. Kolisi’s determination, composed character, and skill in motivating the team, even in nail-biting situations, mirror the qualities that organisations need today to steer them in their most trying times.

Whether you find yourself at the helm of a project, a team, or an organisation, you need to be able to influence those who follow you. You must inspire belief not only in yourself but also in your vision, fostering the confidence needed for everyone to collectively realise that vision. Siya Kolisi has successfully done just that. His personal leadership brand is truly an extension of his personal brand.

A key facet of Kolisi’s successful personal leadership brand lies in his self-awareness and his understanding of the skills and experience of those in his team. This is a big part of why so many people around the world adore him. He knows where his own strengths lie as well as the unique strengths of each player on his team. Any professional that wants to build a strong personal leadership brand needs to play to their strengths and make sure what they bring to the table aligns with the organisation’s goals.

In Siya’s own words, “I know what I don’t know, and I know what others around me have and I make sure I make full use of the people around me. You can’t be everything at all times. It’s not about me. The most important thing is the team. You must know what kind of leaders you have around you. Make full use of them. Make sure they work with you, don’t work against them.” There’s so much truth in these words. Siya knows that everyone is a shareholder in the Springboks team.

He also fervently came to the defence of fly-half Manie Libbok amid criticism over his kicking performance in the lead-up to the tournament. In response to questions over whether Libbok could cost South Africa in some of the crucial matches, Kolisi affirmed, “From a player’s point of view, these questions get asked quite a lot when he misses kicks. We play as a team and sometimes you’re not good at one thing on the day, but the way he attacked today, the way he [took] control of the team, how he is a general amongst us. People forget that, and then they remember the stuff that he does.”

Kolisi continued, “Faf can kick, Cheslin can kick, there are a lot of guys that we can call upon. So, if someone is lacking somewhere, somebody else takes over. It’s the same with me, sometimes I don’t know what to call in the game; Duane will call; Eben will call; Manie makes a call; so if someone is lacking somewhere, somebody else picks up for them. He’s not going to be good at everything every single day.”

Our Springbok captain, along with South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, imparts a valuable lesson in leadership. Instead of getting bogged down by weaknesses, you need to focus on highlighting both your strengths and those around you. 

In any team, it’s incredibly important to recognise and celebrate what each person does well to boost their confidence and overall team morale. It’s precisely this way of thinking that shows Kolisi is completely aligned with his core values and ready to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals.

The bottom line

Business leaders who genuinely want to influence those around them can undoubtedly take a page out of Siya Kolisi’s book. Much like our exceptional Springbok captain shows, a strong personal leadership brand begins with knowing yourself and being confident in who you are. This includes getting to know your strengths and understanding who to call on in various situations to make the best decisions for your team.

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