The great shame is that we expect rugby to imitate life. We expect every pass to stick. But, guess what, we are human.
That includes Kurtley Beale and Ewen McKenzie. Both made mistakes. But frankly, that makes them human; it does not make the Wallabies toxic.
Jack Welsh, who ran General Electric for 30 years, and increased profits every year during his tenure, sometimes fired his best performing employees. Whether they were executives or sales persons, if they did not fit the culture, Jack let them go.
Jack, like everyone running a business or organisation, understands the vital importance of culture. It starts with leadership and setting examples. Leaders must understand that they are on show all of the time and everything they do is transparent and transmits messages, albeit subliminally, to employees and staff.
Sometimes a leader’s messages and examples are less subtle. Either way, an organisation’s culture is heavily influenced by its leaders. There are multiple examples of corporations changing culture with the adoption of new leadership, leading to inspired and sustained performance.
But leaders don’t act alone. The entire machinery of governance, a board of directors, stakeholders, employees and customer support underlies success. The support for the leadership must be unequivocal.
Likewise, employees have to subscribe to the organisation’s DNA. It’s absolutely vital that the combination of the vision, the values and the actions all mesh.
More time is wasted on disruptive employees than on those that are performing at the top of their game. Is it different dealing with one bad egg among 100 or 300 or thousands? What is the difference in dealing with 1 out of 15? No organisation can afford misalignment, whether sporting or not. The organisation must always be the primary concern.
So much for general principles. Is the Wallaby culture toxic? Absolutely not. The Wallaby organisation shows no signs of a toxic culture.
Weak leadership? absolutely not. A committed, accountable, experienced and functioning board. And until the loss to Argentina, a coach with equal respect and a clear sense of direction. John Eales, Michael Hawker and Bill Pulver are modern, sensitive and experienced leaders.
Double standards by leadership? None, on the evidence presented.
Authoritarian or bullying leadership? No. Link is only one of a few global coaches that is able to extract meaningful relationships from his players and coaching staff.
Openness and honesty? Yes.
A culture is based upon ambition and greed? I don’t hear anything like ‘me’ and ‘I’ in what I have read from the team, so no.
Rampant gossip and rumours? They have spread fast have had devastating effects, but many of them have no source and could have originated from the media.
An us against them mentality? There is evidence of this, which can often arise from weak leadership.
Retaining poor-performing staff? Keeping them on board will frustrate the other good performers with a good attitude, meaning they are much more likely to leave.
In Australian swimming, an independent review found a failure of leadership and culture. Australian swimming’s worst Olympics in two decades was due to a lack of moral authority and discipline, which manifested in a “schoolyard clamour for attention and influence”.
Australia’s 2012 Olympic swimming team was consumed by a “toxic” culture involving bullying, the misuse of prescription drugs and a lack of discipline.
The independent review, cited incidents of “getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying”.
I doubt there is any evidence whatsoever of this in the Wallaby camp. At the very most, we have two individuals who erred. To err is human. Let’s not allow it to become fatal.