Mastering Your Leadership Short Game

I don’t golf.

At least not by any measurable standard.

I have walked around a golf course flailing at small white balls with a metal stick but I would hardly classify myself as a golfer.

I do have friends who actually know how to golf. They tell me that the key to great golf is mastering the short game. The big drives are impressive but they won’t make the difference in your score at the end of the day.

Out of curiosity, I turned to Google.

How to improve your short game returns 1,580,000 results. How to improve your drive returns 2,550,000 results. If the short game is the key, why isn’t it more popular?

My unscientific hypothesis is that driving is:

A. Bigger

B. Louder

C. Faster

D. Easier

E. Good for the ego.

As further evidence, the most popular drivers have names like:



Air Max

Big Ben

Big Bertha


Vapor Speed?

Some leaders go for the show. They want to be a power hitter. Take charge. Get the attention. Take on the toughest projects. Make a name for themselves. Show everyone what they can do.

Problem is, they are one-dimensional. They may look good on the tee but eventually the lack of a short game will sink their score.

Every leader needs a good short game.

I think of this as the small, daily, less noticeable actions that lead to long-term success and the attention to details that keeps the team on track.

For example:

  • Showing appreciation
  • Investing in teachable moments
  • Offering support
  • Setting clear priorities
  • Asking good questions
  • Observing the process
  • Listening to understand
  • Clarifying expectations
  • Preparing for change
  • Checking in

The short game requires a different set of skills. One cannot swing the putter like a driver and expect a good result. Well, unless you’re me of course. When a leader is out of balance in this way the outcome looks very similar.

Every position on the golf course demands the right choice of club, applying the proper swing, the right level of energy and the proper focus.

A professional golfer spends thousands of hours mastering the short game because they know that to be a complete player they must learn to apply both power and finesse.

Here’s the long and the short of it, (I couldn’t resist). Effective leadership requires patience, preparation, and practice if we are to apply the right approach wherever we are on the course. When we diversify our leadership skills we improve our opportunity for success.

“It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. It took one afternoon on the golf course.” – Hank Aaron

So, how’s your short game?

One comment

  1. Hi Scott,
    I like your analogy. My short game is something I’m working on this year (can you spell RESOLUTION?) Actually, I’m working on both my short game and my long game, but I realize the short game is what gets me to the 19th hole 😉 My goal is to stay focused on the goals and to do all the work needed to get there, while still balancing my life in a healthy way.
    Leadership is a big theme of mine as it is (“shared leadership, actually”) one of the seven pillars of community that I write about. I agree with you that it takes preparation, practice and LOTS of patience.
    All the best in 2017 Scott! I look forward to coming here to receive wonderful doses of inspiration!


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