Siya Kolisi pictured during recording of the Mind Set Win podcast.
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Rugby

How to become a better leader with rugby world champion Siya Kolisi

South Africa's Siya Kolisi talks about leadership and being the pioneering captain of the Springboks in the latest episode Mind Set Win podcast.
Written by Chiara Koeck
3 min readPublished on
What does it take to be a leader? In the fourth episode of the Mind Set Win podcast, host Lisa Ramuschkat talks with trailblazing South Africa rugby team captain Siya Kolisi about his journey to the top of the game, all things leadership, and how important mindset is in his life, both professionally and personally.
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What does it take to become a Springbok?

As the first black captain of the South Africa national rugby team, Kolisi's momentous journey from a childhood wrought with obstacles to become a two-time World Cup winner has armed him with a power for mental resilience that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus finds irresistible. According to Kolisi, Erasmus looks for "players who can live in the dark places longer than the opposition" when he selects team members.
Growing up in a township in South Africa taught Kolisi that he just needs to keep on going and that where he is today is already a huge success: "I had to move forward from these challenges, I had to get up, go to school, to training and all these things. That just became easier."

Siya Kolisi's leadership style

Discussing the topic of leadership and dealing with the pressure that comes from leading a team in consecutive Rugby World Cup finals, Kolisi says he had to work to find his own leadership style.
Siya Kolisi is seen at Red Bull Roots in Durban, South Africa, April 20, 2022.

Honest communication is a key part of Kolisi's leadership

© Tyrone Bradley/Red Bull Content Pool

"It takes time for me to warm up – and it’s a big thing. I didn’t understand why it’s a big thing," Kolisi explains about becoming the first black captain of the Springboks. He sees himself as player first, then captain, an approach that he implemented into his leadership. "Everyone’s a leader, everyone’s in charge of a different facet of the game," according to Kolisi. To him, true leadership is also closely tied to honest and open conversations, an environment that he fosters within the team.
"That’s what I’m good at as a leader, sitting with someone. It's good to speak with people because you’ll never know what you will find in the process."
This mindset was evident, especially during the Springboks' match against England in the 2023 Rugby World Cup semi-finals. Kolisi remembers that he was taken out of the game rather early, but knew that he'd fulfilled his role and that the players entering the match would "do a better job". Eventually, Kolisi would lead the Springboks to victory, not just in the match, but also the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
“You don’t have doubts. Winning is a mindset that we train for. And that belief came through again.”

What is a winning mindset?

Kolisi explains that it’s not necessarily about taking opportunities, but rather about building a system that creates opportunities for the players. For the Springboks this means spending most of their training on preparation for games off the field. "We spend more time in the computer room watching clips and meetings than on the field," Kolisi reveals. He also shares that they have profiles on players of the opposition, which they use to study and prepare for games ahead. The team takes their confidence from knowing this system and the processes they put in place.
Curious to listen to the full conversation between Siya Kolisi and host Lisa Ramuschkat? Hit play at the first part of the episode above.
Then, Siya invites you to celebrate your highlights with him. And, what better way than dance? Check it out here.

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Siya Kolisi

A dynamic and inspirational loose forward, South African national team captain Siya Kolisi has led his squad to two Rugby World Cup titles in succession.

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