Wood Driver by Golf Ball June 2000It’s always interesting to me how you can notice leadership lessons in so many aspects of our lives. I am currently taking golf lessons, as I have been less than satisfied with my golf game for the last couple of years.

We had Todd Gongwer, author of Lead for God’s Sake, in Alexandria and Willmar last week, sharing his message and insights on servant leadership. I noticed many similarities to what he was sharing and my journey to improve my golf game.

After spending more time with golf over the last month than I have in many years (which is still very little), and some great time with Todd last week, I would offer the following key servant leadership lessons learned from both:

  • Set out to be your best, not the best.
    • Looking at the best is an external focus and looking at your best is an internal focus. Focusing on the best can lead to one of two things, neither of which is positive – envy or pride. Your best is about maximizing the influence or talents you have been given for the purpose it’s been given to you.
  • Stay focused and keep it simple.
    • In both leadership and golf you must get two things right to be successful…Focus & Foundation. You must focus on the right things and have a solid foundation (Character in leadership / Stance & swing in golf). At my last golf lesson I had way too many things in my mind that I was trying to focus on and everything went awry.
  • It takes perseverance and patience.
    • Neither servant leadership nor golf comes naturally. Both take a lot of practice and development, which requires significant perseverance and patience.
  • There is always room for improvement.
    • You will never get to a point where you say you have arrived and there is no more improvement necessary. Both are very humbling endeavors which require a passion for continued development and improvement.
  • Feedback on performance has to be immediate to be useful.
    • Hearing about something a significant amount of time after it has happened is not as helpful as immediate feedback. My golf coach watches my swing and makes immediate correction (a lot of them I might add). In leadership we want the same thing. It is important to develop an atmosphere of “No fear” where you are getting constant feedback on the job you are doing leading the team.
  • Everyone needs a coach
    • After the second round of the PGA this weekend they were showing Tiger Woods working out on the practice range with his coach. Even the best players and leaders in the world need, and will benefit from a coach.
  • Practice, practice, practice
    • Improvement in both golf and servant leadership will not happen just by hoping it will take place. It takes time, effort, and energy practicing what you have learned. Practice will lead to improvement. If you don’t practice, you will get worse.

The bottom line is this: The pursuit to be YOUR best at anything is worth the effort and the journey. In what facets of your life are you intentional about pursuing your best? 

 Mark Deterding

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.   1 Corinthians 3:11