International rugby referee Nigel Owens MBE has told a business audience in Belfast of the importance of garnering life lessons to enhance their professional development as leaders.
The former World Cup Final match official was speaking at an IoD NI event which was sponsored by BDO Northern Ireland.
More than 120 business leaders from companies across Northern Ireland gathered at Ulster Rugby’s Kingspan Stadium for the lunch time event, which formed part of the IoD’s ‘In Conversation’ series.
Addressing the audience, Nigel drew comparisons between leadership in the sports arena and the business world:
“When I take charge of a rugby match, my role is to ensure it remains within the parameters of the laws of the game and to do that, it is important that I have control. We’ve seen over the years when a referee loses control of a game, it can become a war.
“To have that control, it takes referees to have had some experiences in life that help them manage the players and to manage the game.
“It’s a bit like business in that you wouldn’t place an inexperienced person as a CEO of a large firm because they haven’t had the experience in that company or in dealing with people and managing people or had those life experiences themselves to help inform their leadership.”
Nigel also told the audience at the sold-out event about his background, born and raised in a small village in south Wales, and the influence this has had on his career.
Having officiated at three Rugby World Cups, including at the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham, Nigel received an MBE in 2016 for services to rugby.
Kirsty McManus, National Director, IoD NI, commented:
“At the IoD, we believe very strongly in the importance of learning lessons from each other in our companies and sectors as we seek to raise our own standards and those in the economy as a whole.
“The ‘In Conversation’ series aims to provide that opportunity and, hearing from those outside business, such as Nigel, further enhances our understanding of the skills required to be a truly great leader.”
Nigel Harra, Senior Partner at BDO Northern Ireland, added:
“Nigel is probably the world’s best-known rugby referee so it was privilege to play a part in bringing him to Northern Ireland for this tremendously successful event.
“A gifted communicator, Nigel has displayed extraordinary leadership skills in dealing, literally, with the giants of the rugby pitch and we look forward to taking some of his lessons forward into the workplace.”