Leadership Lessons from the Green

Tyler Reagin

Healthy leaders are just as intentional with their rest as they are with their work. In the same way that God has gifted each one of us with unique abilities for the sake of partnering with Him in His work, He has also gifted us with unique ways to enjoy rest with Him. Rest does not necessarily look like lying on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, watching The West Wing. It can certainly look like that, but rest will look different according to your unique wiring.

For me, golf is the most restful activity. It’s the only space that easily allows me to focus on a life-giving activity outside of my day-to-day. If I go for a walk, my mind is prone to latch on to my day’s worries revolving around work or family, but on a golf course, I’m focused on playing, and that doesn’t leave room for those worries. It’s my time to rest my body, mind, and soul.

As I reflect on my passion for golf, I’m able to see how lessons I’ve learned on the green translate to my daily leadership. Here are 5 leadership lessons I’ve learned from the game of golf:

Same course does not mean same results.

Golf wouldn’t be very exciting if I shot the same score every time I played (unless my score was low enough to be on tour, which would be really exciting, but even the pros don’t shoot the same score every round).

No matter how many times I face the same course, my game can look very different. Some days, I make the same decisions, but have different outcomes. Some days, I make tweaks to my decisions and see different outcomes. The same is true of my leadership. I usually know what I’m facing at the start of each day, but decisions are made and days progress slightly differently than the ones before. And thank God for new days. Yesterday’s performance doesn’t have to define today’s efforts or outcomes.

Leadership, like golf, is all about knowing your course, and being willing to make slight tweaks along the way to best improve your outcomes.

Have measurable goals.

I love how simple it is to track progress on the golf course. Each course gives you a standard to aim for at each hole. And at the end of the day, you leave the course with a score that says whether or not you met that standard. You even create your own standards based off of your past performances.

For the most part, leadership goals are not as easily handed to you, so it’s up to you to create the standards for yourself and your team. Make them clear-cut. Make them as measurable as possible.

Know your tools.

A standard golf bag will carry about twelve clubs. You’re doing the same action with every swing, but you’re executing them slightly differently based upon the circumstances you’re facing. Each club serves a  specific purpose within the game. It’s up to you to know when to use each club.

The same goes for your leadership. Every leader is equipped with an array of assets. It’s up to you to take inventory and best learn how to employ the talents of your leaders in order to succeed as a team.

Better over perfect.

Golf is a game where there is no such thing as perfection. If you play with the purpose of being perfect, then you will only leave feeling dejected and hopeless. A greater aim is to play with the mindset of getting better.

Successful players are continual learners, always in the posture of a student, looking for ways to improve. It takes a mixture of humility and hunger to practice rhythms of bettering yourself. In the same way, healthy leaders work with excellence, remain teachable, reject the idea of perfect leadership, and have a heart for improving as individuals and as a team.

The best you is a self-aware you.

I mentioned earlier how each player carries many clubs, and how it’s up to them to learn how to best use them depending on their circumstances. Learning how to use your assets well begins with knowing yourself. Each player has his or her particular strengths and weaknesses, and the best ones have learned how to rely on their strengths and grow in their weaknesses.

You are your greatest competitor in golf. If you have your eyes set on other players and their unique attributes, then you will lose focus on improving your game because you are trying to imitate someone else’s.

For leaders to experience life to the full, they must be their truest selves. Comparison will destroy your hope of becoming a life-giving leader because you will end up exhausting all of your time and energy on draining life from yourself instead of giving it. Remain a student to leadership by never giving up on learning about yourself.

You have been fearfully and wonderfully made by a heavenly Father who has called you to a specific mission. His design in your life is perfectly fit for His call on your life. Let’s believe that as we lead.

Tyler Reagin is the President of Catalyst and author of Life-Giving Leader: Learning to Lead from Your Truest Self. 

Learn more about Tyler and his upcoming book here

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