As leaders, we have goals, plans, and strategies. In our minds, we envision how meetings are going to go or how projects are going to take shape. One of my former bosses was an avid golfer. He used to schedule executive planning retreats. We’d spend an hour in a clubhouse conference room and the rest of the day on the golf course. He believed leadership is like golf, a humbling experience. There are days when things go well which makes us feel like, we’ve got this thing mastered. Metaphorically speaking we’ve played this course before and know what to expect. However, some days the course is dry and the ball scoots across the green. On other days the course is damp, and the ball doesn’t roll as fast. It’s the same course, but different conditions. People who are successful at this sport read the conditions accurately and apply what they’ve learned from past experiences and apply new subtle techniques And so it is with leadership.
At first, I thought the boss was giving us a play day. I liked getting out on a beautiful golf course bonding with colleagues. But the more I played the game the more I recognized the parallels between leadership and golf. A golf bag has clubs that are used for different situations. The driver represents power. I loved to hit the ball far, it made me feel powerful. However, without the proper stance and angle of the clubface, the ball will slice to the right or hook to the left. This represents uncontrolled power. The fairway wood doesn’t provide as much power but allows for more control. Using the driver and fairway wood in combination produces distance and control. However, chipping, pitching, and putting are where games are won and lost.
The driver is position power. With it, a leader can run roughshod over subordinates with a my-way or the high-way approach. Unlike a golf ball hooking or slicing, leaders lose the hearts and minds of good people. Like the fairway wood, good leaders put employees in a position to reach both their and the organization’s goals. The pitching wedge and the putter are used for what is called the short game which is tantamount to soft skills like curiosity, confidence, empathy, and other options in the leaders’ bag of skills. In short, the boss taught us to use our power wisely. Change your thoughts, change your destiny.