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.

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