As I struggled on the golf course to overcome the bogey on my last hole, I found myself on full tilt. Standing on the tee box I stared down the 420 yard par 4 before me. I reared back and swung with all my might. The ball set off in flight, but on a crash course with a tree, only 150 yards away.
I had to find myself. I had to overcome my adrenalin rush and focus. I had to get back to me if I was going to shoot par. It was at this moment, as I walked down the fairway to my ball, that I realized why so many other executive leaders I have met play golf, because golf is like leadership. In order to succeed at golf, you need to make sure you have the right tools in your leadership toolbox. These 6 key leadership skills are imperative not only to a winning score on the golf course, but a winning score in business.
- Manage the small parts – a typical course requires 72 shots from the best of players. To be a strong leader, you must be able to focus on each and every “shot” in order to keep the sum in line with your goals.
- Mistakes can be quickly overcome – a 150 yard drive into a tree can be over-come with a 220 yard 3 wood and a strong approach shot from there. The same holds true with business and leadership skills. A strong leader is able to overcome a mistake by holding their composure for just a short time after the mistake has been made.
- Quarterly Results – a good golfer will focus on the short term, just as a good leader will focus on weekly, monthly, and quarterly reporting. A bad 3 holes can be overcome by 3 good holes. A good golfer knows which holes will be tough, and thus a bogey is acceptable. He’ll also know which holes are easy, and thus a birdy is expected. A great leader will be able to read into his team and business to identify areas where strong performance is expected, and where weak performance is acceptable.
- Consistency is key – A good golfer approaches each shot the same, taking into account all the variables. He then adjusts his aim, alignment, and swing speed. A consistent approach is important to delivering high quality leadership, however, a leader must be able to make adjustments on the fly.
- Control your attitude – An average round of gold lasts 4 hours. A good golfer must be able to keep his attitude in check for 4 hours in the face of success on one hole and failure on another. An even keel approach is essential to maintaining a consistent score. Leaders must be able to lead their team in the same manner for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.
- Practice – When a golfer is not on the course he is on the range honing his skills. Leaders must do the same. Read about leadership, go to leadership seminars and leadership training, eat healthy, exercise, and practice being a good leader. Without this, you’ll be sloppy when it comes time to tee off.
As in golf, leadership is a game of finesse. One must constantly be fine tuning every aspect of his approach in order to win. Practice these 6 steps and you’ll be on your way to becoming the best leader you can be.
What are some other keys to success on the course, or another sport for that matter, which are parallel to success in business and leadership?