A LEADER’S GREATEST CHALLENGE

The following clues describe an American golfer known for winning trophies yet susceptible to losing his temper. Can you name him?

  1. He was child prodigy, recognized as a top amateur by age 14.

  2. He played in his first U.S. Open at age 18.

  3. He won his first major tournament at age 21.

  4. During an event, he angrily tossed aside a club, which struck a female spectator. The incident prompted the USGA to send him an official letter of warning.

  5. He infamously lost his cool while playing at a Red Cross charity event.

  6. In the middle of a round of poor play at the British Open, he ripped up his scorecard and stomped off the course in disgust. His immature, unsportsmanlike conduct drew criticism from the media.

The answer? The legendary Bobby Jones. A sportswriter once claimed Jones had “the temper of a timber wolf.” Fortunately, the hotheaded young man learned to keep his competitive streak in check, and as his career progressed Jones became known for his grace, kindness, and fair play. In fact, every year since 1955 the USGA has presented the Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship to the person who best “emulates Jones’…attitude toward the game and its players.”

Reflecting on his days as a hot-tempered, young golfer, Bobby Jones remarked, “I was full of pie, ice cream and inexperience. To me, golf was just a game to beat someone. I didn’t know that someone was me.” In other words, Jones couldn’t master the golf course until he gained mastery over his own destructive behaviors.

Self-Management

A leader’s greatest challenge, and most difficult task, is self-management. If you lead yourself correctly, others will line up to follow you. If you lead yourself poorly, you’ll eventually push away the people you need the most. The following are three areas in which to focus your self-management.

1) Emotions

“Some emotions cannot be endured with a golf club in your hands.” ~ Bobby Jones

Like anyone else, leaders experience powerful emotions. However, good leaders know when to display emotions and when to delay them. In saying that leaders should sometimes delay their emotions, I am not suggesting that leaders bury their feelings. Rather, I am recommending that leaders hold their emotions in check until an appropriate time and place. The bottom line in managing your emotions is that you should put others—not yourself—first in how you handle them and when you process them.

2) Thoughts

“Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course…the space between your ears.” ~ Bobby Jones

The greatest enemy of good thought is busyness. If the pace of your job does not allow you to stop and think during the workday, then develop the habit of jotting down three of four items deserve your full attention later. Carve out 30 minutes that same evening to review your list. Or spend a couple of hours on a Saturday to remove yourself from distractions and focus your thinking upon those topics.

3) Energy

“It is nothing new or original to say that golf is played one stroke at a time. But it took me many strokes to realize it.” ~ Bobby Jones

As a young golfer, Bobby Jones would take unnecessary risks to compensate for an errant shot. Instead of conceding one stroke, he would exhaust himself attempting ill-advised shots in an effort to get back to par. As he matured, Jones paced himself more evenly and did not expend as much energy trying to make miraculous shots.

As an achievement-oriented leader, I am tempted to accomplish more than I can realistically manage during the day. However at my age, I have no choice but to pay attention to my energy level. At the beginning of each day, I review my calendar and ask: “What’s the main event?” That’s the one activity where I cannot afford to give anything less than my best (a speaking engagement, a key meeting, critical writing time, etc.). I conserve my energy at other times during the day to make sure I’m at my peak for this pivotal event.

Application

In which of the above areas (emotions, thoughts, energy) do you need to improve your self-management? How would your life improve if you were able to upgrade your self-management in that area?

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