Golf and Leadership Integrity - Innolect, Inc.

Golf and Leadership Integrity

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”  – Dwight D. Eisenhower

With Spring in the air, golfers are streaming to courses to improve their games, contribute to fundraisers or just to be outside. The most avid golfers, even after a bad day, return again and again with the hope of shaving off strokes, sinking a long putt, or making a hole-in-one. Golf is often called the “gentleman’s sport” with its own language, rules, customs and etiquette. Whether you understand what entices others to the game or not, the five golf principles below offer leadership lessons.

Play with Integrity. Many say that golf is a sport of integrity because several rules of the game are visible only to the golfer. Golfers keep their own score, figure their own handicap, call penalties, determine what is in or out of bounds, etc. Without referees or umpires, golfers, like leaders, have a choice. When a golfer finds her ball in an unplayable lie, she can call the penalty or move her ball when no one is looking. Leaders of integrity do the right thing even when no one is looking.

Let Go of Mistakes. Unless a player has purchased mulligans (free shot) in a charity or best ball tournament, each stroke counts. A common beginner mistake is taking one’s eye off the ball with a resulting shank or miss. Golfers who move on from a bad shot and let go of their mistake are more likely to recover on the next shot or hole. Similarly, leaders who focus on what went wrong may jeopardize opportunities in the future. Leaders must learn from errors, keep their team’s attention on what is critical in the moment, and focus on the bigger picture and desired end results.

Face Fears. Golf courses are filled with obstacles. Sand traps, water hazards and the rough potentially create psychological fears and barriers. Rather than looking at the end game–the pin and hole–many golfers fixate on avoiding the obstacles. Their fear of hitting a poor shot, looking foolish, or losing a ball, creates emotional or psychological stress. The best golfers, and leaders, have a strong “inner game” and acknowledge a fear and tackle it head-on. In practice, they focus on mastering the shots and situations that make them nervous or afraid. Some hit balls from a sand trap, visit the driving range or hit from tall grass until the fear is replaced with confidence. Leaders, too, learn to face the fears that might prevent them from making progress when they challenge the status quo, schedule difficult conversations, negotiate contracts or take on new responsibilities.

Continue to Learn. PGA professionals are excellent golfers and are seldom satisfied with their game. They continually analyze their play and seek advice. Even the best hire their own coaches, get pointers from other professionals and watch video playback, all to shave a few strokes off a round. They realize that even when in their prime, they need to refine their strengths and eliminate bad habits. Just as some golfers are better at the short game and others the long game, leaders have strengths and weaknesses. It is important to seek advice and look for ways to refine their skills and learn and grow new capabilities.

Focus on What They Can Control. Golf is a game of skill and luck. No matter how well one plays, someone else might play better. No matter how solid you swing, your ball may bounce into a terrible lie. With golf, as in leadership, it is best to focus on things you can influence and control rather than on the last shot. The most successful golfers and leaders use energy to think and work on what they can change. Even after a “lucky bounce,” golfers and leaders need a strategy and plan for what to do next to stay competitive.

While the game of golf can seem frustrating, these lessons for golfers and leaders demonstrate that there are no shortcuts to winning. Golf and leadership require integrity, practice, strategy and execution. And, the best golfers and leaders remember to have fun!

For more information for how your team can engage our golf pros to learn about leadership, please contact: Becky Ripley, Innolect’s Excursion Learning℠  Practice Leader, at

Special Tribute: Ed Sehl
Ed Sehl, our friend, colleague and golf professional, passed away earlier this year. He was a man of great faith, integrity and presence. He taught PGA and PGM Apprentices at Universities around the country as well as designed, facilitated and coached during Innolect’s Excursion Learning℠  Golf Events. We miss him…

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