The President's Blog

Lessons on leadership from a pro golfer

April 11th, 2016

I am an avid golf fan who waits in anticipation for the Masters Tournament each April in Augusta, Georgia. I cannot remember exactly when this event began to captivate me but it is something that I find absolutely spellbinding every year. If I am unable to catch the event in real time, I make sure I record every minute of coverage and watch until the last interviews are complete. My family has known for a number of years that the television is mine on Masters Weekend.

The 2016 Masters this past weekend will be remembered for the catastrophe that Jordan Spieth experienced on the 12th hole. What looked like a sure win that would have been historic in nature instead turned into a loss of epic proportions. The 22-year-old golfer suffered a defeat like very few have ever experienced in a major sporting event.

Yes, it is only a game. It’s a sport played by a group of very wealthy professional athletes. However, I could not help but make connections with the event and the principles of effective leadership that are so important in any organization.

I must admit that I watched the post-match interviews with Spieth a number of times as I was enthralled by the way he recounted his experience. During the discussion of his tournament and his final round, he continually referred to the good times experienced with the plural pronoun “We”. His willingness to acknowledge the team approach in what many consider to be an individual pursuit has always been commendable.

What struck me, though, was the change that occurred in his language when he began to discuss the misfortune that he encountered. Immediately as he began to discuss the difficulties, he switched to the singular pronoun “I”. Rather than casting doubt or blame on others, he was quick to take on personal responsibility for the bad decisions, poor execution, and negative results that occurred Sunday at the Masters.

I marvelled at his maturity and the leadership lessons that he reinforced. True leaders share success and acknowledge their own shortcomings by accepting individual responsibility for difficult times. Spieth may have lost the Masters but, in doing so, he taught many about the personal integrity that is needed to be a successful leader.

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