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The Warrior & The Philosopher

On Leadership, Legacy, and the Choices that Shape Us


Amidst the golden glow of a warm August afternoon, in the cozy confines of Sampson Armand's boardroom, sits Don Armand, a former rugby professional whose journey has been one of disciplined choices, sporting success, intense challenges, and an unwavering commitment to family.

From the hallowed fields of the University of Cape Town where he studied Organisational Psychology, to the pitches & stadiums of elite rugby, Don’s approach to leadership has evolved profoundly. But it's not the kind of leadership that just thrives in boardrooms or on rugby pitches; it's the everyday kind, where you lead by example, primarily for oneself. “Leadership development starts with knowing how to lead yourself,” he muses. "to invoke change and be an agent of transformation, you must embody the ethos you preach. Whether it's your professional journey or the manner in which you rise after a fall. It's all interconnected."


His gaze shifts, and there's an obvious glint of pride as we move the conversation to his wife Rayanne and their four children. "I'm living my dream of having a happy family," he says. "Having four healthy children, juggling businesses, and ensuring they remain my priority has been a challenge, but it's one I’ve cherished. It's the real success, especially in a world that often suggests otherwise.


Yet Don’s ambition doesn't end there, far from it. "Rugby & (Exeter) Chiefs have been good to me, but I want to be more successful out of rugby than I ever was in it. It’s about the legacy I leave for my kids, and hopefully, their kids. I'm laying the foundation, offering them life's hard lessons in palatable doses.”


The essence of his philosophy revolves around choices and how these choices craft resilience. Whether it’s the daily decision to step into an ice bath or to run marathons, these are conscious challenges he sets for himself, not for the adrenaline but for discipline. "Every plunge into cold water, every stride in a marathon, they are reminders that everything comes down to choice," he says passionately.


He speaks of energy states with an academic’s interest, outlining his pursuit to understand how best to harness mental energies. “It's not just about the big challenges,” he suggests. “It's about the daily ones, the consistent efforts, from a short cold shower to a longer ice bath. It's about grounding yourself daily, taking out moments for these little energy givers.” His next set of challenges includes running the London Marathon again, despite past resolutions not to, and a daunting climb in Morocco. But these endeavours aren't just about personal growth. They're commitments to causes dear to him, from supporting young lives with cancer to backing the Devon Air Ambulance. In Don’s world, the boundaries are clear. While he admires those who chase extremes, he’s aware of his limits. “I wouldn’t climb Everest or row the Atlantic,” he says. “But that doesn't diminish my respect for those who do.” As our conversation winds to an end, Don touches upon societal perceptions of emotions. “Everything in life comes down to choice,” he reiterates. Recognising we have a choice in how we react or feel and working, however slowly, towards something better than what we currently have is incredibly empowering.” This former professional rugby player, businessman, and father leaves us with much to ponder. In the glow of the afternoon sun, one message resonates clear: every day presents choices, and in those choices lie growth, challenge, and legacy.

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