Guest Post: The Golfing Leader By Chris Abbott

Posted by:

Guest Post: The Golfing Leader By Chris Abbott


About The Author:  Chris is a graduate student pursuing his MBA at the Gore School of Business at Westminster College.

A round of golf is a course in leadership.  Leadership is defined as “the ability to influence others in goal directed ways.”[1] James Abbott fits this definition to a tee.  James is my brother and co-founder of an indoor golfing business, Golf Anytime.  Apart from running his own business, James is also a top executive at Zions Bank Corporation.  Allow me to use golf analogies to show how James exemplifies leadership principles.

  1. FORE = Leading amidst change and uncertainty
  2. YOUR SCORECARD = Establishing precedent of the existing workplace


In golf the word fore alerts those playing ahead of a ball flying in their direction.  Who is yelling fore in the business environment?  Global markets are changing so fast people are left wondering if any work done yesterday is meaningful today.  In their article, “The Work of Leadership,” Ronald A. Heifetz and Donald L. Laurie discuss adaptive challenges, explaining that “changes in societies, markets, customers, competition, and technology around the globe are forcing organizations to clarify their values, develop new strategies, and learn new ways of operating.”[2]  James Abbott shines in analyzing and adapting to the constantly changing global market.  Golf Anytime was originally conceived as catering to the average consumer of golf.  Seeing the amount of corporate golfers coming in and their potential for repeat business, James had the foresight to adjust our business model.  We now target business clients that work in the area and corporations that can use our space for corporate meetings.  James is successful in removing himself from the “rapid motion, the physical contact, the roar of the crowd, and the pressure to execute.”[3] James is yelling FORE and we are adjusting.


Golf Scorecard

(photo credit

 Golfers know that keeping an accurate scorecard is essential to tracking their progress.  Business leaders often fail to improve their score by trusting only their abilities.  Delegating tasks frees the executive and allows lower ranking positions to grow.  Effective delegation works if there is a “Culture of Leadership.”[4]  Without this culture, the lower ranking individuals will begin to think that they are being bossed around and not empowered as the executive had designed.  James created an environment that allows everyone involved to make decisions and expand leadership abilities within the framework of what Peter F. Drucker, author of “What Makes an Effective Executive,” calls an “Action Plan.”[5]  For example, James gave the task to establish a way of tracking our goals and objectives, essentially asking us to fill out a “goal scorecard.”  James could have told us what to do, but instead he gave us the charge to build a framework that works for everyone.  We are now all sharing our goals in Google Drive files – simple, yet effective.  This allows us to see each other’s progress and areas that need movement or attention.


After a rough first shot golfers want to take a mulligan, unless of course the golfer is a staunch individual who believes in the purity of the game.  Businesses could take a mulligan to restore hope after a rough first go.  Mistakes are made; learning from mistakes is crucial to success.  From the article, “Level 5 Leadership” by Jim Collins, we learn about the “Stockdale Paradox” – that is, “deal[ing] with the brutal facts of your current reality–while maintaining absolute faith that you’ll prevail.”[6]  Despite a slow initial quarter, James has taken a mulligan by purchasing equipment that could have been leased, signing extended lease agreements to show long-term commitment and confidence, and building an expansion model for more locations, thus restoring hope.

Being an effective leader takes time and practice.  Daniel Goleman mentions in “What Makes a Leader” that “emotional intelligence” is also crucial to the success of leaders, and IT CAN BE LEARNED![7]  Following principles set forth by the authors I have mentioned, business leaders will get closer to the end goal: the goal of being a leader in life.  James Abbott developed some of these skills by being part of corporations that built the leader in him.  He now is using those skills by teaching others.  In doing so, James is exercising one characteristic of what Jim Collins calls a level 5 leader: “Level 5 leaders have ambition not for themselves but for their companies, they routinely select superb successors.”[8]

Let us all engage in a round of leadership.


About The Author:  Chris is a graduate student pursuing his MBA at the Gore School of Business at Westminster College.

[1] Whiting, V. (Aug. 22, 2013).  In class discussion.

[2] Heifetz, R. A., & Laurie, D. L. (2011). The Work Of Leadership (p. 57). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

[3] Ibid, p. 60.

[4] Kotter, J. P. (2011). What Leaders Really Do (pp. 52-55). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

[5] Drucker, P. F. (2011). What Makes an Effective Executive (pp. 28-29). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

[6] Collins, J. (2011). Level 5 Leadership (p. 119). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

[7] Goleman, D. (2011). What Makes a Leader (pp. 1-21). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

[8] Collins, J. (2011). Level 5 Leadership (p. 130). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.


About the Author:

Professor and award winning author, world traveler, Mom, thought leader, mentor, friend, and advocate Vicki Whiting, Ph.D. is dedicated to the facilitation of learning and the development of leaders in all walks of life.

Add a Comment