Chief Sub-Editor Rosie Morton interviews rugby legend Gavin Hastings ahead of his appearance at The Borders Book Festival…
When it comes to sporting arenas, rugby presents one of the most challenging environments. Indeed, George Orwell once referred to the great game as ‘war by another name’.
It is, of course, in these highly pressurised settings that inspirational sporting figures are born, and former rugby player Gavin Hastings – who played for his country with distinction, earning himself 61 caps for Scotland – is one of the country’s finest examples.
Drawing from his own experiences, as well as tapping into the knowledge of other players and managers, Hastings has put pen to paper to examine the lessons of leadership that touring with the British & Irish Lions has taught him. Lessons which can be transferred to other aspects of business and life.
‘My new book Legacy of the Lions: Lessons in Leadership from the British & Irish Lions was a lockdown project,’ begins Hastings. ‘Every four years the Lions go on tour to South Africa, New Zealand, or Australia in rotation, so they only visit each one of those countries every twelve years. The challenges in playing in each of the three different countries is diverse.’
Based on interviews with an array of past and present greats of the game – including Sam Warburton, Warren Gatland, Brian O’Driscoll, Martin Johnson, Finlay Calder, Sir Ian McGeechan and Paul O’Connell, to name but a few – Legacy of the Lions discovers what leadership lessons have been learned in one of the most gruelling environments in world sport, and how they can be made to work for you.
‘I was lucky enough to go on two Lions tours: in 1989 to Australia, and in 1993 to New Zealand, for which I was captain,’ continues Hastings. ‘I figured I’d start with 1989 and spoke with every captain since then. I obviously had a very in-depth interview with myself too. (I was surprised at the answers that Gavin Hastings gave me!)’
Hastings, who has now traded life on the rugby pitch for Scotland’s golf havens, explores what made Lions tours successful. Ultimately, he explains, every team – no matter how talented, individually or collectively – will find themselves in dark and difficult situations both on and off the field, but the successful ones are those that find a way through those challenging times.
‘What was the best thing that every captain did?’ he asks. ‘Go to the pub prior to the tour starting! Because that’s when people feel at ease. It’s a sociable atmosphere and you get to know people far more.
‘When I became Scotland captain, I would always sit next to the people I didn’t know at breakfast, or sit next to them on the team coach on the way to training. I needed these players to work incredibly hard on the field, but if I had never spoken to this bloke away from the field of play he might not be able to stand me. Whereas if I’ve made an effort to get to know him and find out what floats his boat, he’ll be much more inclined to give you that extra effort which may ultimately be the difference between winning and losing. Business is like that too.’
Testament to his remarkable strength of character and never-say-die attitude both on and off the pitch, Hastings’ name will forever sit in the sporting Hall of Fame. Talking in depth about his career, new book, and leadership tips, he will be at this year’s Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival on 6th November at 12pm, appearing alongside a host of literary giants including Hilary Mantel, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Alexander McCall Smith.
Legacy of the Lions: Lessons in Leadership from the British & Irish Lions, by Gavin Hastings, out now, RRP £17.99.
The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival runs from 2-7 November in at Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott. To purchase tickets, please visit: www.bordersbookfestival.org