50 Business Challenges: No. 24 Balls on the Line

Sometime you have to put your balls on the line” said Warren Gatland, coach of the successful British and Irish Lions team in Australia. It follows the vitriolic reaction to his dropping Brian O’Driscoll, one of the world’s great players. Gatland was accused of giving the final game away, of being biased towards his own national team, and even of destroying the ethos of having a joint Lions team.

Gatland will be very relieved that his team selection delivered an emphatic series winning victory. He has been, however, honest enough to acknowledge that “if we had selected Brian we probably still would have won the game given the way we played”.

The moral? Leaders have to be prepared to take tough decisions, whether about people, products, or even the continued existence of the firm. They have to avoid the easy choices in favour of the right ones – even when it may never be clear which choice was right. And they have to be able to withstand pressure and criticism, which can derail an entire career if things go badly.

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