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Learning leadership on the links

Monday, 24 March 2014 - 10:30am IST | Agency: dna

I have been playing golf for nearly two decades and the one thing that echoes about the game is how much it can teach people. The course is not only a great place to connect, converse, sell or network but also one where heads go home with strict lessons in leadership.

Playing by instinct: There's a saying about golf that it's a game between your two ears. Just like being a leader is about instinct. The game puts you in situation where your club selection, shot planning can get you in or out of roughs. Leadership doesn't wait for you to go back to the text book but instead tests your ability to take on a business situation with your gut and experience. Raj Jain of Bharti Retail once shared with me, "You may not have control over the trees and bunkers, but you do have control over your stance. If big business is your golf course, then tweak strategies as you think they should be".

Less is more: In golf sometimes a half swing gives you a better shot than a long one. Hero Group's Pankaj Munjal gave an insight during one of our games how small goals can add up to a game-changing moment for any business. And that taking a deep long swing has a higher chance of slicing the ball. Instead play a game where small moves give better results.

Timing is everything: It's all about that moment, getting the grip, making an appropriate posture and releasing the club head to get a perfect ball connect. Clinching deals is a bit like that too and so is taking a key decision central to the company's future. 'What' is all about 'when.' Jack Welch's India entry was a bit like this. He grabbed the opportunity to introduce GE into India when Gurgaon was just a barren land.

He later reaped benefits of the timing of his decision.

Bunkers: No golfer can perfect the game without learning how to play the sand wedge. Leaders may never understand business without wading through rough waters, learning from mistakes, dealing with tough client moments or even lose deals. How you play that recovery shot, fix the bad with a good move will determine the strength of your game and your business.

Individual game: In golf you compete against yourself and that's also true for leadership in business. How good a leader you are is determined by your ability to be consistent, competitive and honest in both the games.

Feedback: Donald McHugh in his book Golf and Leadership says if a golfer can separate a slice from a clean shot, he or she would know the importance of feedback. Timely advice, feedback and the ability to recourse a plan are critical to business.

You may not be Tiger Woods or Jeev Milkha Singh in your game but you certainly can take golf lessons to your boardroom to plan a winning strategy. In a sense, your approach on the links can translate into leadership success as golf brings your learnings you will be using all your life.

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