Monday, September 29, 2014

Leadership and the Ryder Cup

The recent flap over USA's loss of the Ryder Cup matches has brought a spotlight on the philosophy of leading professional golfers to victory. What works, and what does not, seem to point at how the well the captain leads his team. The captain has many duties in the period leading up to the matches including; selecting wardrobes, arranging travel, and picking players who have not otherwise qualified by the point system. All of these activities are management issues which take a lot of time and are open to microscopic analysis by the press, the players and the players' wives.

Once the week of the matches arrives and the players are all assembled it is time for leadership to take its place. The leaders role now becomes that of motivating and empowering the players to do their very best.
Professional golfers today are different than their ancestors. Most own their own jets, run their own business, and hire their own team of couches, fitness gurus, caddies and psychologist. They are used to making their own decisions about where and when to play.

Rent studies on motivation demonstrate that traditional extrinsic motivational techniques do not motivate, but often demotivate.
There are three powerful motivator for persons of this caliber: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.


Traditional leadership is based upon a hierarchal model which works well with routine, mechanical performance. The leader has authority by his position or title. This is not the model of God’s creation. Creation is based upon an orbital or relationship model. The universe consists of galaxies of stars, stars each containing orbiting planets, and planets have orbiting moons. All matter is made up of molecules of atoms with electrons orbiting their nuclei. An orbital or relational model of leadership does not rely on positional authority but recognized authority. While this sounds radical to some traditionalists, it will yield a healthier following. When members of a team feel that they have a degree of autonomy and are able to provide input, they are more willing to participate and contribute.


Mastery is the urge to improve ourselves. It does not matter whether it is playing golf, a musical instrument, teaching a class, or digging a ditch. We have this deep-seated desire to master something. Motivation to work harder comes from the desire to improve our skills. In Abraham Maslow’s “Theory of Needs,”  the author believes that humans strive for an upper level of capabilities. Humans seek the frontiers of creativity, the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom. This has been labeled "fully functioning person", "healthy personality", or as Maslow calls this level, "self-actualizing person."  The leader’s task is to help the followers to become great. 


The purpose is to be clear, focused, and significant. It is the leaders responsibility to communicate the significance of winning the Cup as opposed to just be selected for the team. He must clearly keep this in focus throughout the matches.

The Future 

Future captains must not only be good managers of the PGA's assets but understand how to motivate the players to give beyond their very best. European captains have understood this. Likewise the captains of recent President Cup matches.That is why they won the cup. The Euros even beat the US team when we had three of the top five golfers in world rankings.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Where have all the leaders gone?
Where have all the leaders gone, long time passing?

Where have all the leaders gone, long time ago?
Where have all the leaders gone?
Young folks pick them, every one
When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?
[apologies to Pete Seeger]

Leadership is a lost art today. Where did it go? Our leaders have morphed into managers. Rather than defeat terrorists, we manage them. Rather than lead a nation we manage a nation. Rather than Generals leading their troops, they manage a war.
In ancient days, kings went out in front of their armies as the battle was joined.  In front of their men they got a clear view of the goal and a feel for the cost of victory. In that position, they would be vulnerable to the slings and arrows of the opposing forces. The soldiers loved it because their hero and leader was by their side. They readily followed their leader. Of course there was a huge risk to the king, but a triumphant victory was worth taking the risk. For the leader, the material rewards of gold and land were valuable, but the intrinsic reward of personal achievement was even more important.
As time passed, kings began to believe survival was more important than material rewards and personal satisfaction. So they became managers and sent others in their place. Generals now led the troops into battle and gained self actualization. But soon the generals decided it would be safer to manage and survive. And so it went.
Leadership, throughout history, has been a risky business. Leaders stand out. They have a big target on their back. You do not have to guess who are leaders, they are the ones others are following. You can repeatedly say you are a leader, but if you look behind you and there is no one to be seen, you are not leading. Leading from behind is not leading, it is at best managing, or just following.
While living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we went crabbing on the local pier. A smelly chicken wing in an old crab pot would trap a few crabs in about ten minutes. The catch was put into a bucket as we dropped the baited pot for another load. A lid on the crab bucket was not necessary. When you have more than one crab in the bucket, the crabs won’t escape. If one tries to crawl out of the bucket, the others reach up with their claws and pull him back into the bucket. Crabs will always pull others down to their level. Eventually the brave crabs will forget their desire to climb above the other crabs and settle down and “just get along,” and be ordinary.
Most people give up after the crabs keep pulling them down to their level and we learn to live with mediocrity. We play it safe and try to manage instead of leading. Leadership becomes a bad thing.

The transition from leading to managing has impacted our entire society. In business managers today's bottom line becomes an idol, reducing long term planning and research and development. As a result our nations creativity has fallen victim to the managers. Quality has been replaced by quantity and shoddy products. Just do enough to get by. In our schools grades become less important because someone might try to lead and get a higher rank over another. In kids sports, everyone gets a trophy whether they were deserving or not. 

Mediocrity has taken over and is greatly over-rated. In giving everyone extrinsic rewards, we have done away with the intrinsic motivators of autonomy, mastering a skill, and/or getting a hard earned  victory. 

In the political arena the emphasis is no longer on individual leadership but on keeping the party in power. Leaders are pulled down to the common level by the rest of the crabs in the bucket. We become Borglike and as we are assimilated.

Presidents and kings today, sitting in their war rooms push a button and a drone attacks. How can the highest official do anything but manage. He cannot feel the heat of battle, he no longer knows his troops, he no longer takes personal risks. And at the end of the battle, he can not take any pride at personal accomplishment.

I do not propose that presidents pick up rifles and lead the troops into battle. What I do propose is that we begin to encourage individual initiative, creative leadership, and a purpose beyond ourselves. Encourage people to take risks. The rewards are still out there.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What will be your legacy?

          In the political world we often hear the term legacy overused. As Obama's term moves to its end, everyone is speculating about his legacy. Each of us leaves something behind after we are gone. It may be good or otherwise. Have you considered what your legacy will be. I have to admit, I have been too busy trying to keep up with God's plans for me to even consider what my legacy would be. But a member of a former church left a great legacy 
Bessie, at age seventy five, was one of the happiest people alive. Each Sunday morning she would stand up in front of the church and gives thanks to God for all He is doing in her life. Each morning she opened her eyes and praised God for another day. When you met her on the street she seemed to bubble with joy and excitement. It seemed totally out of place for someone dying of an incurable cancer. She had accepted her condition and knew it was only a matter of time when her eyes would be closed forever and she would greet Jesus in heaven.
Bessie was regularly taking Chemo-Therapy which left her tired and it was difficult for her to get about. On a morning after her treatment at the local hospital, Bessie came into my office and literally flopped into the visitor’s chair. There was something different today. This was the first time I had ever seen her sad. She seemed almost depressed. My mind began to race with thoughts of bad news from her doctor, “Would we be planning a funeral in the next few days?”
Heaving a deep sigh of resignation, Bessie spoke very subdued, “I have just come from the cancer ward. There are so many patients and their families who are confused, worried, and desperate. It is so sad. My heart is breaking for them and I don’t know what I can do about it. I feel the Lord is calling me to pray for them, to cheer them up and to minister to them. But I don’t know how or what to do.”
“It sounds as if the Lord is calling you to your life purpose. And who knows, maybe you have come to this position for a time such as this.[Esther 4:14] Maybe I can help. The chaplain at the hospital is a friend. Let me make a few calls.”
The chaplain was very helpful but told me we would have to get further permission.
“Bessie, the first thing you need is the permission of the hospital. The hospital has strict rules about who can approach patients in treatment rooms. They have had some bad experiences with well-meaning people. You need to go see the chaplain and he will take you to see the Director of Patient Services who is the only one with the authority to give permission.”
A couple of days later Bessie burst into my office with a big grin on her face. “They told me I could do it.” She paused and looked confused, “But, what do I do now? Where do I start?”
I had not given it a lot of thought but the Spirit gave me the plan. “Here is the plan. You want to follow God’s lead. Go and sit in the chemo room. Just relax and look around. Soon the Holy Spirit will point out the one to whom you are to minister first. When you approach them He will give you words to say or maybe your presence will be enough. Continue to do this as long as you feel strong.”

Bessie began to see God work through her as she ministered to hundreds of people over the next couple of years. The patients and their families would look forward to seeing her. After two years of powerful, spirit-led ministry Bessie succumbed to her own cancer leaving behind a legacy of, cancer survivors, thankful families, amazed doctors and nurses, and a treatment room that had been transformed from a deathly cell into a place of hope, joy and thanksgiving even in the midst of sorrow and uncertainty.