I had the opportunity to play in a golf event to raise money for a good cause. The course was amazing, the weather was perfect and I was playing with my son. What could be better? The only thing missing was a consistent golf swing.

When I was younger, I played a lot of golf. Then, after my children were born, I played almost none – it was too time-consuming and too expensive. Now, as I’ve gotten older, I’m trying to play more. In part, because of my son’s desire to play. I do love the game. I find it both maddening and sublime.

Those who don’t play have no idea of how hard it can be. Let’s face it, it doesn’t LOOK hard – as someone told me once, “The ball’s not even moving like most other sports…” Ugh!

As I hit one errant shot after another recently, I was reminded how many parallels there are between golf and leadership. The one idea that came to mind most often – leadership and golf are both games of recovery.

What are you supposed to do when you hit a bad shot? For those non-golfers who may be reading this: I’ll answer the question for you, because I think the same principles apply when you and I hit a bad shot in our role as leader.

Don’t make it worse by doing something crazy. The only birdie I had today came after a lousy tee shot. After my drive, I was about 240 yards from the hole on a par 5. Rather than try a heroic shot over the creek to a heavily bunkered green, I hit a layup shot. My third shot, with my wedge, stopped 6 inches from the hole with the tap in remaining for a birdie. Now, what I almost did was play the 1 in a 100 shot with my 3 wood from 240 yards out. That would have been crazy. Don’t follow a bad leadership move with another one.

Don’t beat yourself up. This is harder than it sounds. When I missed an 18 inch putt today, hitting the ball 3 feet past the hole and then missed the putt coming back, it was hard to have a good attitude. 3 putts from 18 inches out!!! However, if you can’t let your mistakes live in the past, they will poison your future. Let it go.

Learn from your mistakes. In golf, there’s an old saying that has always helped me: The flight of the ball never lies. Translated, if you look at the flight path of the ball, you can be assured of where the club face was at impact. This provides a huge opportunity for learning. I never want to waste a bad shot – I try to learn something from every one. The same goes for my leadership mistakes; I don’t want to waste an opportunity to learn.

Focus on the next shot – not the last one. Just recently, someone asked me if I knew the most important shot in golf. I didn’t. They said, the next one. What’s the next leadership move/decision you need to make? After you’ve learned from your last leadership shank, move on to what’s next. Learn from the past – just don’t live there.

Golf is a mental game. Bobby Jones said,

Competitive golf is played mainly on a course 5 ½ inches wide… the distance between your ears.”

Leadership is played on that same course. Don’t let your thinking lose the game for you.[GLS_Shield]

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.