Admit I’m a tragic golfer, I started playing when I was 12 and played as a competitive junior in Brisbane, Australia. So it was no surprise to anyone in my family that I was looking forward to the Ryder Cup golf tournament last weekend between the US and Europe.
I was as interested in seeing the Ryder Cup from a leadership perspective as I was watching three days of amazing golf as golf is first and foremost an individual sport with the exception of team tournaments like Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and the Solheim Cup which are both played. years.
Much has been written about why, with such talent, the United States had not won as often in the past as the statistics would have predicted. And in this year’s Ryder Cup, though talented and again favored, the American team faced the same question marks but ultimately came off with a 19-9 victory.
I think there are a few leadership lessons that stood out from this year’s Ryder Cup:
1. Introverts also make effective leaders
Too often we tend to view effective leaders as extroverted, talkative, and inspiring extroverts. We think of people like Winston Churchill, Jack Welch and Martin Luther King, Jr. who were all amazing leaders and outgoing. So, in a high-stakes competition drawing millions of viewers and with a number of really great personalities making up the U.S. Ryder Cup team, it seemed like a self-proclaimed introvert Steve Stricker to be named captain was an odd decision. Steve is a man of few words but when he speaks he chooses his words carefully. He is vulnerable and wears his feelings on his sleeve. Instead of giving enthusiastic speeches, showing his team videos of former champions, or arranging famous celebrity tours as had often been the case before previous Ryder Cup tournaments, Steve chose to be himself. He focused on preparation, understanding the chemistry of his players to ensure the best possible matches, including pairing up great friends Patrick Cantlay and Xander Sc Chaudele, and as he said, his job was really to make “Easy” for their team to come out and be themselves. In the end, Steve not only led the American team to victory, but he also led them to the biggest margin of victory since 1967. Research shows that introverts and extroverts are equally effective as leaders, but as psychologist Adam Grant has shown, introverts are better leaders. with proactive teams where players take initiatives. It’s time for companies to rethink what makes a great leader. Introverts shouldn’t be overlooked.
2. Great leaders are not always the best players
Steve Stricker is a great golfer in his own right, having reached the second career rank in the world. However, he is the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain to never win a major championship. In business, as in sports, we tend to assume that the best leaders have to be the best in the profession they chose earlier in their careers. I have always maintained that leadership is a position within the team and that the leader should not be decided simply on the basis of performance in his current role. Great leaders and coaches like Bill Belichick, Gregg Popovich and Jose Mourinho have had impressive playing careers to say the least. Bill even preferred to play lacrosse than football. But all three know how to get the most out of their teams and have proven themselves as leaders despite the lack of talent to play themselves at the highest level. Businesses also need to discover and train great leaders.
3. Age and rank are no excuse for opportunity
“I didn’t know that being 32 was considered old these days,” said USA player Harris English after the team’s selection was announced. The Englishman was of course joking, seeing that Steve Stricker had assembled the youngest team in Ryder Cup history. 8 of the 12 US players are in their 20s and 6 of the 12 competed in their very first Ryder Cup. After three dominant performances in the first two days by the world number one. 1, Spaniard John Rahm, I was looking forward to seeing who Steve Stricker would face him for in the singles matches on the final day. While it was the lowest ranked American player Scottie Scheffler, fans on social media were quick to dismiss the showdown as a point for the Europeans. But in the end, Scottie won the match and the United States completed their Ryder Cup victory. Why is it in the business world that we have this fear of letting young, enthusiastic employees lead because they “lack experience” or because they have not “earned their stripes”? I still remember having ideas 40 years ago and being told things like “your time will come” or the classic lines “we have tried this before” and “it will never happen” . How I became CEO of Taco Bell and eventually Yum! Marques, I made it my mission to give everyone a chance.
This year’s Ryder Cup was another amazing golf and game spectacle for collective pride. But it also presented valuable lessons for all business leaders. Recognize the inherent leadership attributes of introverts, identify the potential for leadership not based solely on current results, and give the people you lead the chance to prove themselves. As the late Leila Janah said, “the talent is evenly distributed, but not the opportunities”.