Leadership Styles

Styles of Leadership and Golf

John Kenworthy asked:

Copyright (c) 2008 John Kenworthy

Many golfers take up the game, in part, because it is known as the sport of business people – it is an especially good means of networking and developing relationships, so is there a commonality between the way people play the game and the way they behave at work – our research and observation shows that there is:

There are six main ‘styles’ of playing golf with a corresponding leadership style – the 6Cs of Golf and Leadership Style. By ‘style’, I do not mean to refer to an individual’s personality or their innate character as though this were true. Iam, rather, referring to the style when you perform most easily and naturally – which may be your true character and personality. Ask someone who knows you very well and ask for their honest thoughts of your style in other situations.

We’ll consider each of the styles in turn, pointing out the dominant characteristics displayed and consider a few well known players and business leaders who fit each style. Your job is to identify your own style amongst these six – finding the one which most accurately matches your approach to the game of golf, and your approach to leadership. This isn’t about choosing the style you think that you ‘should’ have, or would like to have. This is about understanding where you are now, and knowing that if you play in this style, or lead with this style, it will be the most comfortable. Later you can consider how to compensate for the weaknesses in your own game.

The Conquerer On the golf course, this player dominates. Blasting a drive as far as possible brings great joy. The conquerer plays to shorten every hole and every shot – going for broke every time. Often an exhibitionist player and like to brag about their prowess.

Long carries over water whet the conquerers appetite – long par 5’s with a copse on the dogleg right to over-fly bring pulses of energy and make the endorphins flow.

As a leader, the conquerer revels in adversity and challenge. Conquerers love to defy the odds, the more impossible the situation, the more driven they become. They want results, and they want them now. Success leads to new challenges whilst excuses bring wrath. Seldom satisfied with the result, it can always be better.

Golf players who are conquerers include: Greg Norman, Bubba Watson, Arnold Palmer, Sam Sneed Famous leader conquerers include: Margaret Thatcher, George W. Bush, Carly Fiorina, Lee Ka Shing, John Chambers, Michael Dell, David Johnson

The Conjuror These golfers find excitement in difficult lies, thoroughly enjoy being tested in the rough, or an impossible shot between the trees. They excel in the bunker, and become easily bored with routine fairway shots. They gather their wits before a troublesome shot and have marvellous imagination which they are very capable of transferring directly into their game. About half of the conjurors like to show-off, whilst the other, quieter half, like to core well.

The conjuror leader triumphs over adversity again and again. Seemingly intent on making their own lives difficult and forever deliberately putting themselves and their teams into new challenges.

Golf player conjurors include: Seve Balesteros, Tom Watson, Phil Micelson

Conjuror leaders include: Herb Kelleher, Hank Greenberg, Michael Eisner

The Craftsman

The clear headed technical player, deeply aware of their swing. Knowing their game intimately. These golfers, rehearse and practice even during a round – working on particular aspects of their game that needs attention.

Exhaustively tinkering with the tiniest detail and variations for every shot allow this player to excel. These players prefer a low stress game, hitting the fairway just right, and onto the green all day will suit them just fine. Quiet and concentrate more on scoring than exhibition, these are solid players and maintain a consistent game.

A Craftsman is someone who likes their business to run smoothly, always seeking ways of improving the product and process incrementally towards perfection.

Golf player craftsmen include: Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Ben Crane, Charles Howell III

Crafstman Leaders include: Gordone Bethune, Andy Grove, Sandy Weill

The Cavalier

The consummate performer – the true exhibitionist of the game, these players like to shape their shots as much as possible and work the ball towards the target. How the shot, and they, look is important. This is the player who says “watch this” as they carve a beautiful shot around a tree and over the water onto the green. Others do this occasionally, with luck, but these players thrive on it. They like to wow the crowd and fellow players and are the shot-makers of the game.

The Cavalier leader is the ‘show-offs’ of the leadership world – not necessarily egotistically, but because it motivates them. Often, they will stun the audience with acts of derring-do and controversial behaviours. These leaders enjoy the limelight and are more frequently in the press.

Cavalier golfers include: Lee Trevino, Corey Pravin and Chi Chi Rodriguez

Cavalier leaders include: Richard Branson, Ken Lay, Bill Gates, Martha Stewart

The Conductor These are the players who pull the others together as much as play for themselves. Often, the unsung heroes of the regular round with friends, these players organise, cajole and hustle. More concerned for everyone’s enjoyment than just their own, they thrive on playing with others. Taking part is more important than winning, they can glory in other’s success. Few of the world’s top golfers fit this style, yet without them, the amateur game and local competitions would not exist for long. Disciplined and organised, these players like to keep accurate scores and seldom show-off.

Most leaders would like to be considered as conductors, concentrating their efforts on bringing the symphony together in perfect harmony towards a particular goal. These leaders empower others and seldom take centre-stage in public view (like an orchestral conductor, they have their back to the audience and their guidance focused on their team.)

Players who are conductors include: Tony Jacklin, Colin Montgomerie Leaders: Charles Heimbold, Carol Bartz, Elizabeth Dole, Ralph Larsen, Bill Marriot

The Chess player These are the strategists of the game. These players plot their way around a course from point a to point b to point c. Positional golf is their forte and they are content to hit fairways and greens and two-put all day with an occasional birdie. They know that consistent, planned performance will win most of the time against all other styles. The Chess Player gets the most from their game when they are thinking clearly, and using their minds throughout the round. Nothing flashy about their game for the most part, these players are good in all aspects of each hole and tend to strike the ball cleanly and well. These are the scorers of the game – they may appear to be showing-off but that is due to their considerable skill and focus.

All leaders would like to consider themselves to be chess players, understanding the ‘art of war’ and the plethora of books on strategic management. But that’s just it, the vast majority of strategists are managers, not leaders (except by title). These leaders know their environment, the situation, what the competition is up to and play a rock solid game, consistently choosing known successful strategies. Rarely greedy and planned with contingencies for difficult times. They understand foremost, who they are and what drives them, secondly they know their people and leverage their strengths and deploy all their resources to best effect.

Golfing chess players include: Ben Hogan, Bernard Langer, David Toms and Tiger Woods (an ex-conquerer turned strategist) Leadership chess players are most exemplified by Jack Welch, Walter Shipley, Howa
rd Schultz, Gordon Bethune, Tony Blair

Each of us in
reality possess aspects of each of these styles in our game and in our leadership. Underneath the situational style we may have developed though, lies a core style that suits us best. A style in which we are truly ‘playing with ourselves’ – a place where we are at ease with our game, and feel confident that we will achieve what we set out to achieve. Knowing your pre-disposition for a preferred style means that you know where, when the pressure is on, you are going to play naturally and with least effort. Knowing yourself and trusting in the strengths of a particular style will enable you to actively reduce your golf score and pro-actively lead your people.


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