My whole life, I’ve always been an avid sports fan. I picked up the sport of golf at age 14 and immediately fell in love with the game. It’s not just playing the game that appeals to me, but also the idea that it’s a bit of an “escape” from the everyday stress that we all deal with. For me, there’s no better way to spend a summer weekend than stepping onto that green grass, admiring the beautiful scenery and enjoying the relaxing sounds of nature. As I’ve now graduated college and have been in my career for over a year, I’ve come to realize that there are remarkable similarities between playing golf and being a leader.

Keeping your cool

One of the most common things about golf that you hear from anyone who has played is how frustrating the game can be. You can walk up to that first hole tee box thinking that you’re going to have a great round and end up losing every ball you brought before you even reach the 9th hole. What differentiates golf from most other sports is that it is a completely independent game. You are truly your own worst enemy on the course. If you have a bad shot, you can’t get discouraged with yourself, or your game will only continue to go downhill. Spending four hours with a person on the golf course speaks volumes about their character. Everyone that plays is going to have at least one bad shot during the round, but it’s how you respond that says a lot about you as a person and as a leader. Those that can remain calm under pressure and don’t lose their temper will be rewarded. Increasingly I see that as a leader in your business, it is critical to show restraint when the going gets tough.

Having a game plan

What makes golf such a challenging sport is that no two holes are the same. Some holes are longer than others, some are shorter. There are different obstacles at each hole, such as hills, sand traps, and water hazards. They’re all intended to disrupt the golfer and throw you off your game. Although you’ve established your goal of getting the ball into the hole, you need to form a strategy of how you’re going to do so or you may waste a lot of time in the sand or in the rough. As a leader, it is critical that you develop a strategic plan and communicate it with your team as well as identifying the importance of the goals you’ve established so that you don’t lose momentum and focus on the way there.

As all golfers know, more often than not, things will not always go according to plan. Your drive that was supposed to travel dead straight to the center of the fairway veered off to the right and is now in the rough. Now your original approach to play the hole has been disrupted and you need to adjust your strategy. Being able to fine-tune your game on the fly and not conceding defeat when things go south is core to effective leadership.

Practice makes perfect

The “afraid to lose” mentality. Nobody wants to have a bad round on the golf course, but you’ve already dug yourself into a bunker you may not be able to shoot out of if you are afraid you’ll make a mistake. Everyone’s going to have at least a few bad shots per round, that’s just the game of golf. So, what’s the key to minimizing those mistakes and positioning yourself to succeed? Preparation. Going to the driving range, perfecting your swing, developing your game. It’s the behind the scenes stuff that no one sees that will mold you into a better player. This is something I have seen modeled by the leaders that I work with as well as the leaders that our firm works with every day.

If you want to learn more about restraint and leadership, read this post. And don’t be afraid to embrace the joy and uncertainty of golf- the rewards are great.

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