On Tuesday night, Channel Seven aired a documentary, ‘The Chosen Few 2: Life as an AFL captain’ which was made by Peter Dickson from the AFL.

Filmmaker Dickson spent the past 10 months studying AFL club captains, coming away from the process with a changed view of aspects of leadership.

He interviewed Leading Teams Director, Ray McLean as part of the documentary, as many of the captain’s interviewed have or had worked with Leading Teams over their careers. The focus was on the emergence of leaderships groups in AFL, a philosophy that Ray introduced back in 1994.

Ray said in his interview, “I think you have to be clear if you’re going to have a leadership group, they have to be given responsibility; it can’t be a token thing and when the going gets tough, the coach takes responsibility back again.”

“The whole model is founded around players having a greater responsibility for driving the standards and driving performance.”

Ray currently works with Hawthorn, Fremantle and Collingwood Football Clubs, with other Leading Teams facilitators working with Sydney (Darren Harris), Melbourne (Jim Plunkett) and St Kilda (Justin Peckett).

For over 20 years, Leading Teams has driven its philosophy on the importance of leadership groups driving performance. Leading Teams believes integrity and openness of the selection of leaders is paramount. Players selecting who they trust as leaders is a pivotal part of the program.

Matthew Pavlich, one of the captain’s profiled on the film said, “On a number of fronts the whole leadership consultant and Ray’s group have helped so much because they’ve given us a really clear road map for all players that’s really empowered the group to have that set of values and behaviours that we live by and it’s unrealistic to think that one person, one leader of the team can have everything under control.”

The documentary focused on the captainship however, Jobe Watson noted, “There’s obviously a lot of onus put on the captain but for me to be a good captain I think a lot of it comes back to how good the leadership group is.”

Nick Riewoldt also commented, “You could do it without a leadership group but I don’t think you’d get the growth that you would want so it’s as much about other people within the group growing and developing as leaders.”

Ray closed the interview by saying, “I’ve always felt that if you could give me a functional leadership group, that’s the best way to high performance. People who are not advocates of an empowerment system use terms like “It’s like letting the lunatics run the asylum”. My fundamental problem with that is that if you think your players are lunatics and your club’s an asylum then you’ve got a bigger problem.”

Read some of Ray’s articles on leadership groups:

Clara McCormack

Clara McCormack

Clara worked for Leading Teams from 2012-2018.