Golf and the Game of Leadership: An 18-Hole Guide for Success in Business and in Life

Golf and the Game of Leadership: An 18-Hole Guide for Success in Business and in Life

by Donald E. MCHUGH

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814400999
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 05/20/2007
Pages: 260
Sales rank: 646,857
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 17 Years

About the Author

Donald E. McHugh, Ph. D. (Toledo, OH) is an enthusiastic golfer, a management consultant, a retired U.S. Navy Captain, and a former senior executive at General Motors and Owens-Illinois.

Read an Excerpt

Golf and the Game of Leadership


By Donald E. McHugh

AMACOM Books

Copyright © 2004 Donald E. McHugh
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8144-0837-0


Chapter One

Posture, Grip, Alignment (PGA)

To get an elementary grasp of the game of golf, a human must learn, by endless practice, a continuous and subtle series of highly unnatural movements involving about sixty-four muscles, that result in a seemingly "natural swing," taking all of two seconds to begin and end.

Alistair Cooke, British journalist

Effective leadership starts with a strong foundation. We've discussed three of the four corners essential to your leadership foundation. On hole #3, we talked about policies and practices that reflect the values of the organization and the importance of your personal values. As we teed up on the next hole, we stressed the need to play by the rules of ethics, honor, and organizational standards. And on the hole we just played, we discussed the necessity for you and your followers to be able to pursue a vision that provides a clear, over-arching direction to your leadership activity and their efforts.

Each of these requirements for play is found in both the game of golf and the game of leadership. Hopefully, as we have played these holes you've identified any deficiencies that you need to address. Even more hopefully, you feel good about where you stand on values, rules, and vision. I know you are itching to make improvements as we continue the round, but first we need to consider the fourth corner of our foundation.

The game of golf relies on the effective application of posture, grip, and alignment, which means properly setting up to effectively swing the club and play the game. A myriad of seemingly different applications of these elements can be observed as we watch golf on television or observe other players as we play our local courses. Some work well, others do not. And, it is easy to tell what works and what doesn't, because the results are clearly observable to all. Those results are traceable to whether or not there is appropriate application of the fundamentals of posture, grip, and alignment. I know you've observed the acronym, PGA.

Posture, grip, and alignment combine to provide the golfer with the proper setup for playing the game. On this hole let's examine how the golfer prepares to swing effectively and compare that to what you as a leader need to do in final preparation for swinging the leadership club. It is probably not necessary to get as basic as UCLA's basketball coaching great, John Wooden, who is reported to have taught his players how to play the game by first teaching them how to lace up and tie their shoes. But it is necessary for you to feel comfortable with your leadership footing.

Posture (A Realistic Stance)

The revered golfing figure, Bobby Jones, once commented, "The general criticisms which are to be made of the average player's posture at address are that his feet are too far apart, his body is bent too much, and his arms are extended too far." Posture to the golfer means the proper positioning of the various body parts for comfort, leverage, and ease of swing. The golfer wants to be sure of a solid base to work from, and so positioning is very important. The fundamentals of correct golfing posture involve slightly bending the knees, a forward tilt at the hips, a straight back, and body weight evenly distributed between the toes and balls of the feet. The purpose is to establish a realistically sound athletic approach to the golf stance. Leaders need to develop a realistic stance regarding their leadership play on the Global Leadership Course.

A realistic stance for the leader must consider a variety of elements. How are you positioning yourself as a leader in the organization? What direction is the organization heading? What are the requirements for success in running your business today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow? What do you see as your role in helping to lead the organization? Is it the need to be a dynamic leader, a tough-minded boss, a developmental mentor and coach, a turn-around expert, a consensus builder, a micro-manager, or a facilitator? Have you made the diagnosis and verified it so that your leadership posture fits the demands of the situation you have been assigned? Is your organization playing in the fairway, out of the rough, on the upslope of growth or the downslope of down-sizing? Wow! Yes, you have to do this analysis of your business and organization setting before expecting to play the leadership game effectively.

Success at golf, leadership, or any endeavor of substance requires that we understand and play within the realities of the environment. Golfers understand this, and the good ones pursue a well-thought-out course management strategy, which includes consideration of the layout of each hole on the golf course. Distance, slope, rough, width of fairways, location of water hazards and sand traps, and pin placements are all considered. Then adjustments are made to respond to the vagaries of the weather and the potential effect of wind, rain, early morning dew, afternoon drying-out, and so on. Course management is serious business to the wise golfer. It is part of posturing to play the golf course.

Similarly, understanding the leadership course environment is serious business for the wise leader. The twenty-first century already is, and promises to continue to be, one of great complexity and challenge. You need a sound and realistic view of the overall situational environment to play the leadership game. The Global Leadership Course is one tough layout!

The Leadership Environment

At one of the previously mentioned "Leadership NOW" (L-NOW) sessions I conducted within General Motors, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Bob Dorn, then chief engineer for GM's Cadillac Division. Bob was a highly respected engineer, a great person, and a real leader. I vividly remember his taking over an L-NOW session one afternoon. He politely asked the facilitators to hand over the chart pads and marking pens, and to find a comfortable seat. Bob then proceeded to present his fellow leaders, and yours truly, a fundamental lesson regarding the leadership environment for then and for the foreseeable future.

Bob was a student of military history. He began his conversation by drawing on a chart pad an organizational pyramid and the communication/information flow arrows for a hierarchical organization such as GM. GM was, and historically had been, a model for the top-down hierarchical organization. Top leaders provided vision, values, and strategies, and they were supported by middle management, first-line supervision, and hundreds of thousands of front-line workers.

On another chart pad, Bob then drew a similar pyramid. He drew the same set of arrows on the second pyramid but labeled the organization as the U.S. Marine Corps. Bob pointed out that GM and the military were the classic models of hierarchical organization structure taught in colleges and universities.

But, Bob wasn't done. On a third chart pad, he drew yet another illustration. This drawing is an inverted pyramid, with the Marine Corps hierarchy also inverted. But here the communication arrows point in the same direction as in the previous charts.

Bob then commented that the Marine Corps always responds to the environment. The second chart, he explained, represents the Marine Corps functioning in an environment of peace-much the same as a GM or other business organization operates in a period of industry dominance. The third chart is the Marine Corps operating in a wartime environment.

In peacetime, the Marine Corps' generals and top leadership are able to dominate the communication flow and survive, much the same as a GM could when the competition was not strong and customers were satisfied. In wartime, the pyramid flips, and success in battle, meaning survival and victory, depends on the communication flow from platoon leaders and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) at the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA), and the responsive support of the leadership up the line. In short, survival and victory depend on the recognition that in war, leadership's role is to provide the support necessary for the front-line warriors to win the fire fights, the battles, and the war.

And then, Bob Dorn asked this question, "Is GM at war or at peace?"

It has been fifteen years since Bob Dorn delivered his lesson. I will leave it to you to judge the truth of his lesson today. For my part, the lesson is even more meaningful now. We need leaders who recognize that there is global competition in virtually every form of enterprise. That is the reality you face, today and in the future. Leaders need to view their role, not as one of power and authority, but as one of service and support. The main mission is to ensure that front-line workers receive the support necessary to succeed. As Winston Churchill said, "Support is the long green stem without which the bright flower of victory cannot bloom." And he added, "For without victory there is no survival."

Making the Cut

When leaders are asked the question, "What is the goal of a capitalist enterprise?" the answers are usually "to make money," "to reward the stockholders," or "to grow the business." Few, very few, respond as did John Smale, former CEO of Procter and Gamble and then chairman of GM's board, in a 1996 Fortune magazine article about the future of General Motors:

A large capitalist enterprise must also be about higher goals than merely serving stockholders. A corporation is a human enterprise. It's not just a bunch of assets. The obligation of management is to perpetuate the corporation, which precedes their obligation to shareholders.

Professional golf is also about survival. Only those "making the cut" get a pay day. The reality of organization life is that effective leadership is a must for "making the cut": achieving success and a long-term existence. This requires a solid grip on reality.

Get a Grip (Hands-On Principles)

Television analyst and Champions Tour player Gary McCord says, "You can fake anything, but a bad grip will follow you to the grave." Grip for the golfer is the proper placement of the hands on the golf club. The fundamental grip taught is an interlocking or overlapping of the hands in a relatively neutral position with the palm of the right hand (for right-handers) and the back of the left hand facing the target. One hand should not dominate the other. There are various grip applications, such as strong, weak, neutral, baseball, cross-handed, and motorcycle (the left hand and right hand are turned almost under the club, like twisting the throttle of a motorcycle).

Check Your Grip

You can't play good golf without a solid grip. You can't be a good leader without a solid grip on principles. You function as a leader on a basic set of principles. Even if you can't recite them for us, you have them. It is important for your success that they be good, solid principles. How about comparing your set of leadership operating principles to the following:

1. Always focus on the situation, issue, problem, decision, or behavior, and not on the person. (The golfer knows it is foolhardy to focus on anything other than the next shot.)

2. Maintain not only your own self-confidence but the self-confidence and self-esteem of others.

3. Maintain constructive relationships within your 360-degree sphere of influence.

4. Take the initiative to make things better. (Golfers constantly seek to improve.)

5. Always try doing the right thing as well as doing things right. (The golfer, with each shot, is faced with the decision of what is the right club and then must make the right swing to make the best shot.)

There is debate over whether or not leadership can be taught. Nonetheless, we know it can be learned. There are some fundamental leadership practices, just as there are in golf. Learn and practice these fundamentals. You must work at them. The tendency for many of us is to think that we are leadership "experts." Try to put this tendency aside and truly listen to those around you and continually question your leadership posture and grip for reinforcement and improvement.

B.C. Forbes' comments in the October 7, 1996 issue of Forbes make a powerful point for those who would lead in a global marketplace:

We sometimes receive letters from businessmen who say they are "too busy to read." The man who is "too busy to read" is never likely to lead. The executive who aspires to success must keep himself well informed. His reading must not be confined to the reports of his own business laid on his desk, or to strictly trade journals, or to newspaper headlines. He must study what is going on throughout his own country and throughout the world. He must not remain blind to financial, industrial, economic trends, evolutions, revolutions.

Alignment (Accuracy)

In Ultimate Golf Techniques, Malcolm Campbell comments on alignment: "If a gun is not aimed correctly, the bullet will not hit the target, and this principle applies just as much to the golf swing. The club face must be aimed at the target and the alignment of the body must match the angle of the club face-known as perfect parallel alignment."

The recommended alignment resembles a railroad track. One track is the path from the ball on the tee and from the club face to the target. The other track is a parallel alignment of the shoulders, hips, and feet. There is a tendency to want to point the shoulders, hips, and feet at the target. It feels wrong not to do so, but as is true of pilots, you need to trust your instruments.

The leader needs to trust the instruments as well. You might refer to this as a bringing together of the elements of the game, whether golf or leadership, for a shot at the target. All the pieces-values, rules, vision, reality, and principles-are brought into alignment. The leader's task is to create this alignment. You can consider yourself the conductor of the orchestra, baton in hand, ready to play a leadership symphony.

Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, and other skilled teachers are able to help professional golfers by identifying problems with their posture, grip, and alignment, and by suggesting corrections. The golfer must then translate these corrections into action. Who helps the leader in today's organizations identify his or her fundamental leadership problems? Sadly, there is not much help available beyond descriptions of leadership style and/or personality. What aspiring leaders need is "posture, grip, and alignment" assistance so they can determine how to improve their leadership effectiveness. They need the example and hands-on coaching of upper-level leaders, not the platitudes of surrogate facilitators and trainers inexperienced in leadership.

Continues...


Excerpted from Golf and the Game of Leadership by Donald E. McHugh Copyright © 2004 by Donald E. McHugh. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

"On the Practice Tee 000

Hole #1: You’ve Gotta Love the Game 000

Hole #2: Simple…Yet Difficult 000

Hole #3: Values Are the Drivers 000

Hole #4: Play by the Rules 000

Hole #5: Tee It Up with Vision 000

Hole #6: Posture, Grip, Alignment (PGA) 000

Hole #7: The Slight Edge 000

Hole #8: Focus 000

Hole #9: Responsibility 000

Hole #10: “Big Bertha”…Confidence 000

Hole #11: Performance Expectations 000

Hole #12: Courage 000

Hole #13: Recognize Positive Results 000

Hole #14: Provide Constructive Feedback 000

Hole #15: Accept Change…Adapt 000

Hole #16: Caddies, Coaches, and Teams 000

Hole #17: An Optimistic Outlook 000

Hole #18: It’s Up to You 000

The 19th Hole 000

The Pro Shop (Suggested Readings, Sources, etc.) 000

Index 000"

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