James Kerr Delves Into High Performance Teams

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Category: Leadership Speaker
Published: 25th January 2019

By Paul-Stuart Greenough

World renowned high-performance expert James Kerr spoke at our Speaker Showcase event on 23rd January. Hosted by, and in partnership with Plexal, London’s Innovation Hub, James spoke about his time with the SAS, the Gurkhas and the All Blacks and what he took from spending months interacting with some of the hardest working and most famous, elite teams in the world.

Not only did he focus on human team-work, from spending time with the All Blacks in New Zealand, he even took something away from the animal world. A great way for any team to keep their focus and performance levels at their maximum potential is to share leadership, as the birds of Kawau Island taught him.

There is one leader at the front of the flock’s flying ‘V’ formation while the rest of the flock follow behind in their place. After a short time, a different bird takes the spot of the leader, and so on and so on. We can take inspiration from their version of shared leadership and implement it into the workplace through splitting or distributing leadership roles and validating each member’s input to create a sense of value and lighten the load of any team task.

Learning from the SAS and All Blacks, James says listening to feedback and creating an environment of distributed leadership is key. The SAS know this method as their ‘Chinese Parliament’ whereas the All Blacks know it as ‘A Stab in the Belly’. The idea is to create value within each team member and have their thoughts listened to and acted upon. They create a discussion, with openness and honesty being vital for this to work.

The values that James believes successful, elite teams need to live by, are taught by the actions of the teams he has worked alongside.

From the All Blacks: “People will rise to a challenge if it is their challenge” – meaning that if people feel that their input is valued and appreciated, they are more inclined to work harder and ‘rise to the challenge’ they have helped to set.

From the SAS: “Courage of leadership is the courage to let go” – meaning that designated leaders need to be able to let others take charge and lead their own path. Passing on control can be daunting but beneficial to the entire team.

From the Gurkhas: “Do the right thing on a difficult day” – meaning that even when faced with challenges or difficult situations, working together to fight through, is what is needed for success.

James delves into these lessons in his next book – ‘Where the Earth Meets the Sky’ – based on his experiences with the Gurkhas at Everest base camp, which will be released in September 2019.

To see more from James click here.