How caddying helped highlight (4) keys to leadership

Every year I caddie for a friend in the member-guest golf invitational at the local golf club.  It’s three days of incredible fare with golf matches interspersed between the meals. As I was moving throughout the day one Thursday, there were several leadership lessons or “realities” that hit me throughout the round.    

1. The best time for leaders to lead is before and after team members take action.

A caddie assists before the shot by checking yardages, wind, lay of the land, noting hazard areas and ensuring that the cart, shadows and noise are out of the players way.  And after the shot, the caddie supports by replacing divots, raking sand traps and perhaps providing an outside perspective on why the result occurred.  Such a directive for those in leadership and management.  Our direction, advising, coaching and training is best suited for BEFORE and AFTER a team member has done a particular job (sales call, installation, presentation, accounting report, interview, etc.)     

2. Leadership is about accomplishing endeavors WITH and THROUGH our team members.

In golf, the caddie doesn’t hit the shots.  And let me tell ya, it’s incredibly tempting to say, “just give me the club and let me do it.”  Let’s be honest, that’s what a whole bunch of us do as leaders.  In golf it’s illegal but in leadership it’s frustrating, unsustainable and unscalable.  If we really want to lead and grow the abilities of others, we have to be willing to watch some “yikes” moments.    

3. Leadership Realites: It isn’t always about you. 

The caddie’s name isn’t on the scoreboard, trophy or even on their back.  Great leaders don’t make it all or even often about themselves.  They seek to care for the needs and skills of their  team members and the desires and expectations of their customers.  Sometimes as a leader I have to tell myself, “this moment just isn’t about me and what I want.” 

4. Great leaders help people stay focused.

In discussing with my friend after, we were trying to demystify where a strong caddie helps the most.  Is it reducing the number of things to think about or perhaps helping with strategy?  Ya know, I think the biggest role of the caddie is to help the player FOCUS on every single shot.  In golf, it can be easy to lose focus over the course of a couple holes.  The same is true for work over the course of a day, week, month or even longer.  Our job as leaders is to help people stay focused on the vision.  To help break down a season into moments so that our team members can put together a whole bunch of little activities that amount to a big impact. 

What’s one action that stirs from the list above that you can start or stop doing to help become a better leader?  Is it give more direction before or after the fact?  Or how about focus more on the desire of those around you?  Or maybe leading from the front in the area of focus?  Can’t wait to hear stories about how you’re growing as a leader and what your leadership realities are this season.

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