There are as many kinds of leadership as there are responses to success or failure. Some leaders are overwhelmed by success, others hollowed out by defeat. Exceptional leaders maintain composure, focus, humility, and ambition, too, no matter what the circumstances.
Garrett Fitzgerald, the retired CEO of Munster Rugby, who died on Friday, was one of the latter. He served as CEO for 20 years, longer than any of his peers.
During that time Munster won two European Cups, three Celtic Leagues and routinely reached the latter stages of European competition. The Thomond and Musgrave stadiums were redeveloped and a High Performance Centre opened in Limerick.
These achievements are all the more impressive as Munster rarely hadresources on a scale with the opponents they regularly met — and beat — at the closing stages of competitions.
But Fitzgerald he did so much more than that. He was central to the consolidation of Munster’s culture where circumstance is just another challenge.
He showed this tenacity when he led Munster to beat world champions Australia in Musgrave Park in 1999. It is both an occasion for celebration and some poignancy that on the day he died a new generation of Munster players announced their arrival, and the security of his legacy, with a record win in Musgrave Park.
He would have been rightly but quietly proud. Few leaders have animpact beyond their chosen stage but Fitzgerald was one.