I was facilitating a leadership workshop recently and afterwards, one of the participants came up to me and said, “I’ve been handling leadership in my business a lot like I handle my golf game. I stand over the ball, set up for my swing, and wonder where it’s gonna go.” He went on to say that his bet was that the really good golfers didn’t just wonder where their ball was headed and that really good leaders probably didn’t wonder where their business was headed either.
He was right; he was also in a pretty big group. Many of the leaders that I work with live their businesses rather than leading them. Even if they aren’t running their own business but are leading a team inside an organization they don’t necessarily have a clear destination or direction for their team in mind and they show up each day wondering where the day will take them and often, just trying to get through it.
Leadership is a set of choices and skills that enables a leader to take his or her business or team virtually anywhere. Many people however, are comfortable just managing and wondering, instead of leading and knowing.
Much like a golf swing, it takes time, patience and a commitment to develop and hone a set of leadership skills that can help you change the future for a team or a business. And much like golf, if you only plan on leading every now and then, it doesn’t make sense to learn, develop, or practice your game. But if you are in a position where people depend on your leadership every day at work, do you really have a choice whether or not to practice your leadership game?
For many, the answer, unfortunately, is that they choose not to. They continue managing their people and their business the same way year after year and, in a bizarre twist of events, end up with the same results. They don’t see the need or invest in themselves to take their game to the next level.
Maybe the reason is, like the golf swing, it’s challenging to master leadership. Maybe we feel like they already have a good handle on how to lead teams, change culture, and increase engagement, despite the fact that our current leadership efforts result in the golf equivalent of hitting the ball deep in the woods. Maybe it’s just easier to lie about the score than improve our game.
Whatever the reason, for many of us, we have to play the leadership game almost every day. And if we are supposed to be leading, and people are depending on us for that, our choice to not get any better at it, is a bad one.
Golf and leadership are similar in another way as well. We can play the game for years, and not get measurably better at it if we don’t get some help with our swing, our mechanics,and improve all aspects of our game. If we have a great drive and can’t putt well, our score is still disappointing. By the same token, if we do a great job at creating a vision, but can’t effectively coach others along the way to achieving it, we will fall short as a leader.
In leadership we have a pretty clear choice. We can improve our game, get some coaching, develop ourselves to be better leaders for our people and our business, or we can pretend those things are out of our control and when it comes to our team or our business we will be left with one option, simply wonder where it’s gonna go.