Bernard Laporte is a leading figure in rugby union. He led France to four six-nations titles in seven years in the 2000s, including three grand slams. President of the French rugby federation since 2016, he is also a successful businessman and spent two years as secretary of state for sport. Leadership is in his DNA.
Leaders League. What does the concept of leadership mean to you?
First of all, I just want to say I love to lead and have always loved to lead. A leader is someone who brings people together and unites them, creates a dynamic, sets the tone, rouses spirits and channels passion. Leadership cannot be taught, it’s something you either have or you don’t. Being a leader is thrilling - to be a leader is to engage, go further, take responsibility. I have placed a lot of importance in leadership throughout my career, as I have always been a captain of the teams in which I played.
Did you still feel like a leader when your playing days were behind you?
I have always been a leader in the sense that I occupied strategic positions on the field, such as captain or scrum half. I have always been passionate about the game and those involved in it and about leading and organizing them.
Is authority important if you want to lead at team at the highest level?
For me, authority means nothing, because it resembles authoritarianism. It leads nowhere. Leadership gives you a natural authority which you don’t have to seek.
How does the idea of leadership inform your daily activities as the head of French rugby?
I lead, I know where I’m going, I set out the vision and take responsibility for it. If I have become president, it’s due to the fact that I wanted to lead, to provide direction, to motivate, to steer projects and move things forward. Leadership is all about teamwork, because alone we accomplish nothing. But in any case, being the president is not just about being a mouthpiece.
Do rugby players always make good leaders?
Not at all. There have been many amazing players who could never lead. Conversely, we have seen many average players become good leaders. There is no correlation between the two.