South African captain Siya Kolisi holds the Webb Ellis Cup after South Africa defeated England to win the Rugby World Cup final at International Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Picture: Christophe Ena/AP
It was with breathless anxiety that I watched the Rugby World Cup Final between the Springboks and England. It wasn’t until Cheslin Kolbe crossed the line with his magical twists and turns that I felt that a third Rugby World Cup victory was a done deal.

At the final whistle a nation erupted in elation. Scenes of the 1995 Mandela Moment played on all our minds. President Ramaphosa had donned the no 6 jersey, a gift from captain Kolisi. And here is where it all changed. Siya Kolisi gave a speech of true humility.

The president did not invade the stage to take the glory. In 1995 president Mandela was a necessary moment on that stage. In 2019 it was not a necessary moment.

The president was eventually found hidden somewhere in a scrum of bodies and looked like he was competing to be the hooker for the next Rugby World Cup. While English players all mostly removed their medals in what appeared to be a sign of disdain, Captain Kolisi and President Ramaphosa celebrated with a humility that became a moment of inspiration.

It is how we celebrate in victory and how we behave in defeat that we allow the world to see the character of our leadership.

When Maro Itoje, the brilliant English lock, refused to allow RWC President Bill Beaumont to put the medal around his neck, his example was followed by Kyle Sinckler, and later by others including English coach Eddie Jones who took his medal off before South Africa took to the podium to receive the World Cup trophy. What the English team told the world was: we refuse to accept that we lost. We refuse to be runners-up. It was a childish tantrum. It’s the typical brat attitude of “if I did not win, I won’t celebrate your win”.

It spoke volumes of the two cultures of leadership in the two teams. Siya Kolisi was in every way the servant leader who kept his message on point.

He spoke of how proud he was of “the boys” and referenced the ordinary people on the farms, the rural areas, the homeless who all inspired the team. He reflected the light on to others.

The president was hidden in the team scrum. Let’s not under-estimate how devastating this loss was for England. To be beaten by a South African team regarded as second rate at best was a sore blow to English pride.

The leadership styles of our sports stars, politicians and business leaders either take us down a destructive road of inflated importance and entitlement or into the enlightened pathway of humility.

There is no other word for it. Humility is the word.

It does pose the question: Why do we not have better leadership from our public icons? The answer to that is that we're all trained to win at all cost.

We are trained to not celebrate the achievements of others. We are surrounded by people who click “like” on social media posts, not because they like it (in fact, they often don’t) but if they don’t “like” the post, then that person won’t click like on their posts. The culture of narcissism is eating us alive.

It was Michelle Obama who famously and simplistically said: “If they go low, we go high.”

Off to the side were the English players, all bar two players, having removed their runners-up medals. They have poisoned the minds of thousands of young people who, wanting to see them shine in glorious victory, instead saw them behave like brats in defeat. There is a better way.

On Saturday I was happy that we won. But what inspired me more was that both our captain and our president behaved in a way that inspired our country to lead with humility and to avoid narcissistic indulgences. May our future leaders come from the humble team.

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest. 

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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