Paul O’Connell: A real leader

LEADERSHIP wears many faces. Some leaders rely on almost supernatural charisma and charm — Bill Clinton — to achieve their ends. Others manipulate by using fear — Charles Haughey — others still cajole and lead by making sure we recognise our responsibilities — Fr Peter McVerry.

Others still, the truly great leaders, lead by knowing when to use each of those traits, when to charm, when to challenge and when to use fear as a motivating factor for followers and as an intimidating one for opponents.

Very few Irish people, much less sportsmen, have used all of those facilities to such great effect as Paul O’Connell. He has captained the Lions, Ireland, and Munster in a way that has won him almost universal admiration.

There is hardly an arena as cluttered with clichés as sport but O’Connell — who will always be known as Paulie — shone brightest in what was known as Ireland’s golden generation of rugby players. Figures as rounded and impressive as him are very rare and it will be very interesting to watch as the rest of his career unfolds. We are in his debt.

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