Brian Cody on what makes a great leader

Brian Cody on what makes a great leader 

After 17 years at the helm of the Kilkenny hurling team, with 10 All-Ireland Hurling Championships and 13 Leinster Hurling Championships under his belt, it's fair to assume Brian Cody knows a thing or two about the characteristics needed to be a good leader.

With this in mind, we caught up with Brian before the Leinster Final to ask him a few questions on what he thought of the role of leadership within hurling, and how Minor Players can become the next Henry Shefflin

In your eyes, what defines a leader on the pitch?

"A player who takes responsibility really, a player who works for the team, always working for the team, seeing what needs to be done and essentially just sticking to the requirements for the game plan. It’s really just about taking responsibility for the team."

Can leaders be developed, or does it just come naturally?

"You definitely have natural leaders, you will always have natural leaders within any group; with a certain passage to develop leaders as well. Some players talk in the dressing room and take centre stage and drive things forward, while others can be very quiet in the dressing room but by their attitude and their body language, and everything else on the pitch, they are real leaders on the pitch."

If leadership can be learned, what can Minor players do to become the next Henry Shefflin?

"Well, they can certainly learn from Henry and all the other great players they have watched. I suppose what defines for me a player like Henry Shefflin is his attitude and his work rate. They are the fundamentals to get right before you can ever aspire to be a leader. If you have that work rate and commitment to lead you are certainly on the right track."

What person (or persons) have the most influence on the development of a leader?

"Everybody has different influences in their own development. Parents, teachers and coaches - people a person meets along the way. It’s their natural development as they grow up, and some people’s influence can stick with them more than others."

Brian Cody directs Kilkenny Hurler

Can you give an example of the best natural born leader you have ever met?

"Oh God! (laughs). The best natural leader…there have been many! I have been very lucky to associate with quite a few of them. Lately Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh; but I like to think players like Noel Hickey who have been retired a few years, as well as other players I have been blessed to work with. There are many others, especially when you think of players who may not have had a high-profile in the media. Many of the great leaders are leaders that are particular to the dressing room, and may not be picked up by the media as being the so-called marquee players but are outstanding players within the group nonetheless. I can think of players like Peter Barry who played centre back for us for a number of years, players without that huge profile but are absolutely essential to the group, you know?" 

How does a tournament like the Minor Championship develop the leadership skills of 17 year olds?

"Well obviously they are representing their county. These are players who have been playing for their clubs and schools and then are going on to another level by representing their county. It fulfils an ambition that they have had for a number of years to try and be the best and to get to that level - a level at which another step up and they will be where they ultimately want to go. The demands are greater as you step up the levels, and their natural leadership skills will be seen as they go along through the grades.

The Minor Championship gives players the opportunity to display really good leadership skills, and you can see the players with potential to go onto the higher levels."

Could you give me an example of a minor that you were very impressed with in terms of their leadership ability?

"There are so many. You know, the good senior players would have been good minor players at a time. Players like Tommy Walsh for example, you can always think about players like him as been outstanding. They showed at Minor level that they were going to be outstanding. There are so many others you know but you always mention them."

Do you have a top 5 tips for leadership success?

"I don’t think I can say that (laughs). It is an instinct thing, different players lead in different ways, and you can’t categorise it in any way. There are so many types of leadership, each player brings their own instinctive type of leadership and it varies really."

Have you ever had one simple idea that has had a huge impact on your leadership?

"I can’t say I have had one single one, no. To be honest, I go by instinct a lot and you know, just sort of tend to go with my gut and that’s the thing - I can’t say I have one. I feel gut is the most important thing for me."

Do you think leadership can be developed, or is it something you are born with? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.