Nick Gholkar On Golf And Leadership

Nick Gholkar has a few thoughts on golf and leadership.

It is worth nothing that many of our political leaders are golf enthusiasts. President Obama has played hundreds of rounds during his administration. President Clinton’s foundation sponsors a PGA Tour event. Former and current Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy play, as does Speaker of the House John Boehner,  And perhaps most famously, President Eisenhower brought immense popularity to the game with his on-course exploits, and was a member of the famed Augusta National Club. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is one of the first two female members of Augusta National.

Add to this list William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, Nick Gholkar says.

Business leaders, too, find the game attractive. Donald Trump is a fanatic, not only playing, but also buying and building courses. John Watson, the CEO of Chevron is a 1.8 handicap. Ian Reed, CEO of Pfizer is an 8.1. Steve Ballmer of Microsoft is a 10.3.

As a reflection of business’ leaders interest in golf, every PGA Tour, Champions Tour, LPGA, European Tour et. al tournament is sponsored or supported by numerous corporations.

One study showed that CEOs who play golf are better compensated than non golfers and that there is a correlation between handicap and income. In 2010, a lawsuit was filed against Goldman-Sachs arguing that the company had a “male-dominated trading-floor culture centered on golf and other physical pursuits”

Playing golf is relaxing and a way to spend a few hours avoid life’s everyday hassles, but that can’t be all that these leaders find attractive in the game, says Nick Gholkar.

Success on the golf course, it turns out, has much to do with success in the larger world. Here are some parallels:

Golf is Self-Directed

With the infrequent exception of team events like the Ryder Cup, two ball games and scrambles, golf is a solitary pursuit. Even with the usual foursome, golfers play alone against the course. To play well, players must be driven—not by cheerleaders or pep talks from coaches—but by their own internal drive to succeed.

Successful leaders also are intrinsically motivated. While the ability to work with and inspire teams also is necessary, good leaders do what is necessary without immediate or extrinsic reward.

Golf Asks For A Positive Attitude

Few things are a deadly to a golf game as a poor attitude. A player who believes that his next show will go awry will be correct more often than not. Conversely, a player who believes in his swing can perform well even with a less than perfect swing. Jim Furyk’s swing is idiosyncratic, but he believes in it completely and is a Major Championship winner.

A positive attitude also is a characteristic of successful leaders. Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you will be correct.”

Successful leaders find ways to channel positive energy into productive channels. They believe in themselves and their teams. They do not allow negative thoughts to interfere with their mission, notes Nick Gholkar.

Golf Requires Integrity

There are no flag throwing referees in golf. There are no umpires calling balls and strikes. Golfers must call keep track of their own strokes, call penalties on themselves and at the end of a round sign a scorecard to attest to the veracity of their score.

In the 1925 US Open, Bobby Jones believed that he had caused the ball to move as he took his stance to pitch to the green. Although no one else saw the ball move, he insisted that it had and informed his playing partner, Walter Hagen. Hagen tried to talk him out of it, but was unable to do so. Jones’ penalty was the difference in the tournament and he would have to wait for another year for a win. He was widely praised for calling the penalty on himself, but Jones responded: “You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”

True leaders conduct themselves with integrity, setting an example for all around them. People must know that they can rely on the leader to do the right thing, even when others are not looking. Leaders who set the example of honesty then know that they can expect the same thing from their employees and team members.

Nick Gholkar quotes Tony Dungy, the great Colts coach who wrote “Integrity is what you do when no one is watching; it is doing the right thing all the time, even when it may work to your disadvantage.”

Golf Demands That A Player Rebound From Failure

Golf is a game full of missed shots and missed opportunities. Even top pros cannot count on hitting more than a few perfect shots in a round. Bobby Jones said that he would perhaps hit six perfect shots in any competitive round. Once, Ben Hogan was asked to comment on a young Arnold Palmer’s claim that he had hit ten perfect shots in the US Open. “That many?,” responded Hogan.

What matters in golf is not how many good shots you hit, but how you respond to the bad ones and what you learn from them. There will always be far more bad than good.

Great leaders know that they will fail more than they succeed. Donald Trump has declared bankruptcy four times. Abraham Lincoln failed in business and lost multiple elections before finally winning the presidency. Absorbing the lessons of failure is an important part of learning to succeed.

Nick Gholkar has been a student at the University of Missouri – Kansas City where he studies accounting. He started playing golf at age 13, and has progressed steadily in the game. Nick Gholkar also plays tennis and scuba dives.

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