7 Critical Leadership Lessons that can be Learned on the Golf Course

7 Critical Leadership Lessons that can be Learned on the Golf Course

Aug 29, 2011

There are so many things can be accomplished on the golf course. For centuries it has served as a great place to sell, network, spend time with friends, or just take in the day.

Golf is a hobby to many, they play the game passionately and with high expectations even though for many it is played only sporadically. These high expectations combined with passion can also yield immense frustration as golf is an incredibly difficult game for even the most avid player. However, it often takes only a single great shot to makes all the pain and adversity entirely worthwhile. Ultimately it is what will keep you coming back to the links for years to come.

Leadership can be the same way. Those who are most active at it are often doing it out of passion and a desire to improve (self or others). This desire to change, inspire, and impassion can deliver amazing results one day only to bring dismal results the next. Nevertheless, when leadership and passion are a part of your DNA, quitting is never an option. So the choice becomes to persevere and to be a life long learner.

The lessons in leadership can come from many places. The classroom, conferences, the office, or from friends and family. I have learned from all of those places, I have also learned some amazing lessons on the golf course. The following seven of which I desire to share with you today.

1. Sometimes you have to “Grip and Rip”

When it comes to leadership, sometimes we need to take some risks and go big. The safe shot to the landing area may keep you in play, but if it is going to take an eagle to achieve success, laying it up isn’t going to cut it. When these times come, you need to know it in your gut and then you need to grip it and rip it!

2. Other times it is best to “Lay Up”

Leadership is often about balance. And above we talk about going after it, but a strong leader does realize that there are times where the lay up is the best shot. When the risk/reward equation does not show a benefit in going “Pin Seeking” you need to realize that the center of the green/fairway is a good place to be, and Par is a good score (all the time).

3. The majority is in between your ears

A big part of being a leader is instinct. When you get on the course, put away the gizmos and gadgets and focus on the game. You cannot fix your swing on the course, that is what the practice range is for. In leadership, when you are in the middle of the fire, you need to react based on your experience and your gut. It is certainly not the time to “Do More Research.”

4. “Drive for Show and Putt for Dough”

As a leader, do not get wrapped up in the idea that the little things don’t count. Talk to all of the PGA professionals that have missed 2 foot putts costing them tournaments and money. That is where the “Putt for dough” phrase comes from. You see amateurs at the range all of the time banging drives, but never practicing their short game (chipping/putting) When you do the little things right, many of the bigger things become more clear and fall into place. While good driving and good putting help you to play a better overall game; if you are going to choose one or the other, make sure you are doing the little things right.

5. Recovery is a big part of Success

Failure is a part of any strong leaders CV. If not, you either aren’t really leading or you haven’t been doing it long enough. On the golf course, bad shots happen. The question is are you going to hit another bad shot because you are busy thinking about the shot before? In leadership it is the same, you have to quickly learn from your failure and put it behind you. If not, the mistakes become exponential and as a leader it can cost you dearly.

6. The ups and downs are “Common”

Many golfers can tell you about their low rounds and their hole in ones. These are the up moments. In leadership this is when the cards fall in place and success follows. Golf is a tough game and you can have your best and worst days in succession. Some days the ball bounces your way and other days it bounces into the water. This lesson transcends within leadership that results are never a guarantee, and sometimes a little luck can make a big difference! You have to learn to take in the bad with the good.

7. Improvement and Mastery are not the same thing!

Neither golf nor leadership can be mastered. We can make strides in self improvement through practice, action, and experience, however the idea of becoming a master is futile. Seek the former and ignore the latter. When you hit the pinnacle (not the brand of ball) in either golf or leadership there is always further to go if you so choose to continue the journey.

In Conclusion

  • So grab your Driver and go for it, unless of course laying up is a better option.
  • Be sure to use your brain, but not over think it because leadership is in your heart as much as your mind.
  • Keep your vision big, but focus on the little things so they don’t become a nuisance
  • When you hit a bad shot, don’t mess up the next 3 while dwelling on it because ups and downs are part of leadership.

And More than anything know this…

There is no such thing as mastering golf or leadership, but improvement is always and forever!

These are just seven lessons of probably thousands that golf can teach about leadership. What has golf taught you about life and leadership? Keep the conversation going below.

19 comments
johnlaffan1
johnlaffan1

Thanks Daniel, I also like Tiger's (last) caddy's saying."Ok,Visualize your shot, now, make it happen".

ZAX_CLO
ZAX_CLO

Yeah, what's with all the non-golfers? Hate and golf shouldn't be in the same sentence - lol.

Very good post Daniel! Love it!!!

AngelaMaiers
AngelaMaiers

Daniel-

I hate Golf, but absolutely LOVE this post!

My favorite line: When leadership and passion are a part of your DNA, quitting is never an option. Learning, reflection, improvement become your lifestyle not a quick fix.

So many lessons to take to heart; in fact the post is so awesome; it may actually prompt me to give this golf thing a try!

Great stuff!

Natasha_D_G
Natasha_D_G

I've heard it said that our worse enemy is the inner-me. Sometimes our self doubt cause us to second guess ourselves and a war ensues between our ears. Thus another reason to be careful of that "majority between our ears" Great learning lessons even for us non-golfers.

douglaserice
douglaserice

Great analogies, Dan! I'm not much into golf but I am into leadership so this post kind of makes me want to take it up ;-). #4 is really good to keep in mind. I, like most leaders, am full of grand ideas but, when it comes down to the day-to-day nitty-gritty, I struggle with getting the little things done. It's excuting the little things, though, that brings the big things to fruition. Thanks for the reminder!

KatCaverly
KatCaverly

As someone who has always subscribed to the belief that golf is a "good walk ruined" I have also known that playing golf is not easy at all if you are going to do it well. What a perfect metaphor for business. This is a like an Ah-Ha moment where I start to understand the appeal of this sport in business. Excellent Dan!

neiljones
neiljones

Really enjoyed reading this. As someone getting back into golf after many years away, I have a couple of reflections on the leadership analogy. Firstly, if your technique isn't sound, no investment in expensive, high end equipment is going to lower your score.

Secondly, if you're on the golf course you either have superb leadership skills and have developed a great team who you can trust to continue to be productive or you are in denial!

Biebert
Biebert

You definitely need to make this into a 12 Most post...great stuff!

We should golf sometime!

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

@Natasha_D_G so when are we hitting the links? I can show you all of these lessons! Thanks as always for stopping by.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

@douglaserice Doug - you don't like Golf? What is with all of you non-golfers? :) The little things really do stand in the way sometimes of greatness. "Blocking and Tackling" is another analogy I like to use. THanks for the read and the comment!

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

@KatCaverly "Good Walk Ruined" I like that.....but totally disagree LOL. I'm glad that even as a non golfer you could appreciate this! Cheers Kat

AngelaMaiers
AngelaMaiers

@Biebert I agree! There are 6 more lessons to be had; and I do not even play golf! Great stuff Dan! Great stuff!

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