Ferns' Farah found the desire to lead

LEADER: Farah Palmer.
LEADER: Farah Palmer.

Black Ferns rugby legend Farah Palmer doesn't know why she was asked to be team captain back in 1997.

But she does believe 70 per cent of leaders are self-made while only 30 per cent are born leaders.

"I didn't have the initial desire to lead the Black Ferns," Palmer said at the Recreation in Action conference at Massey University yesterday.

"I didn't get on the field in 1995 so I decided I wanted to be a starting hooker in 1996, so I worked really hard. When they asked me if I wanted to be captain [in 1997] my head said ‘no I'm not ready', but my heart said ‘yeah do it'."

Palmer, who captained the New Zealand women's rugby team to three consecutive World Cup wins between 1998 and 2005, is now a senior lecturer at Massey University's School of Management in Palmerston North.

Opening the New Zealand Recreation Association's conference, Palmer's keynote speech gave an inside view into leadership and success based on her research and 11 years of international rugby.

"I don't know why they asked me but I guess I had the right values and traits for them."

Palmer said there were many others on the team who could have become captain.

"But they asked me and I said yes, so I had that desire to lead."

While desire is an important factor, leaders have other strong traits, she said.

"Charismatic and transformational leaders tend to have self confidence, moral conviction, high energy and action orientation, minimum internal conflict and a self-promoting personality."

But not all effective leaders were charismatic and transformational, and reluctant leaders could rise to the challenge, Palmer said.

"If you believe in the kaupapa, and if your followers believe in you, then there is an effective leadership."

Palmer's key message was to reflect on what was and wasn't working in developing your leadership style.

"I tried to be an authoritative person but the girls laughed at me because that's just not my personality. I just had to be myself.

"I had to be the hardest trainer and not break the rules because people believed that's what I'd do as the leader.

"When it came to the end of my career I spent a lot of time reflecting. I discovered that my (similarities) to the younger generation of players was waning and my leadership was not as effective, so I aimed to develop others to take over," Palmer said.

The Recreation in Action seminar will continue today at Massey University's Sports and Rugby Institute.

Manawatu Standard