Leadership Lessons from a Round of Golf

A smart golfer will listen to his caddie

I had a chance to play a round of golf last Friday with a couple of friends. But there was another person to join the round of golf — a caddie. Caddies are not a usual component of my golf game. My skills certainly don’t warrant the use of a caddie. Nevertheless, I had the chance to play 18 holes with the use of a skilled and knowledgeable caddie.

Our caddie’s name was Doug. He didn’t look like a caddie. But, then again, I don’t look like a golfer. But he knew the course as well as Jack Nicklaus himself, the designer of the course. He knew every fairway, water hazard, and bunker. He told us where to aim and what areas to avoid. And he could read the greens with absolute precision. He used his knowledge and did everything that he could to set us up for success. All we had to do was to execute the shot. Simple. Not necessarily easy. But, simple to see once he showed us the way.

My friend that was hosting us on that day was a member of the club and knew the course very well having played it hundreds of times. But even he listened to Doug and followed Doug’s advice when it came to reading the greens and putting. I figured that if my friend was listening to the caddie’s advice, I should probably do the same.

The Leadership Lesson

Is there a leadership lesson in there somewhere? Yes. There are several. And here they are. But before we reveal them, it is important to note that you don’t have to be a great golfer to be a great caddie.

There are caddies and there are golfers — That isn’t very profound. But, it is true. Caddies help you in many ways. But they don’t take the shot for you. Each has a part to play in the great golf drama. But, it is the golfer that must make the shot each and every time.

They know things that you don’t know and they see things that you don’t see — I have been on that golf course less than a dozen times. The caddie has been there every day for ten years. He has been in every bunker and every hazard. He has walked the course and has seen players make shots from every conceivable location. So they know and can tell you about what is around the bend when you cant see it yet.

You don’t have to take their advice — You are free to accept or disregard their advice. After all, they are your clubs, your balls, and your score that you will write down at the end of each hole. So, you are free to do what you want. But, why wouldn’t you listen to them? Why ignore the one with exacting knowledge of the contours of the course?

A Practical Application

I think there is a practical application for us as leaders. There are folks that will cross our paths who may be able to provide insights that we would not otherwise have on our own. They may be in a support role. But they add value to the overall process. So, let’s review the lessons above from a practical perspective.

There are leaders and there are supporters — They can’t lead for you. But, they can make your job as a leader easier. Don’t be afraid to let them help you be a better leader.

They have knowledge and insights that you don’t — This is sometimes hard for us to accept. We are the leader. We are supposed to know everything. Sadly, that is not possible. But, when they are willing to share this knowledge and insight with us, we should receive it with openness and gratitude.

It is still your call — You are the leader and the “buck stops with you.” But it is a wise leader that is able to ask for and receive advice that can make you a better leader. 

So, how did I do?

I lost. But, that is not what I am focusing on as I reflect on my score. Listening to Doug’s advice led to three pars on my scorecard and one of the lowest scores that I have ever recorded. 

What about you? Who can caddie for you? Who do you know that may not be a great leader, but has great insights that can make you a better leader?








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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

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