Leaders are like Golfers

by  Will Lukang  |  Leadership Development

Will Lukang, PMP, CSM, CLDC

As I was following the Presidents Cup over the weekend, it occurred to me that golfers are like leaders.   In some respects it is not fair that I compare golfers to leaders, because leaders have more responsibilities and have more on their shoulders.   However, from a conceptual standpoint there is congruence between the two.

Comparative analysis

Sharpening the saw Leaders are perpetual learners Continuously practice his/her swing
Integrity Would do the right thing no matter the circumstances Would uphold the rules of the game, even assessing penalties on themselves
Role model Role model to everyone they serve Role model to people who admire and follow them
High standard Set high standards and aim to exceed them Aim to do their best and compete each time they go out and play
Has followers Inspires people to act and do things they otherwise cannot do themselves Encourage people to try and be patient in learning the sport
Are human Like everyone else they can make mistake Are susceptible to make mistakes because the status gets in their heads
Hard worker They are the first to come and last to leave.  They lead by example They often spend long hours honing their skills in order to be better


Golf is called a gentlemen’s game, because honesty is a requisite in order to play this game.  I’m not saying that all people who play golf are honest, but professional golfers often assess penalties on themselves in spite of no one pointing it out to them.   Such penalties could be the difference between winning, being second, or worse yet, missing a cut.   For that they are similar to leaders, wherein no matter whether anyone is looking or not, they will always do the right thing.

While a golfer can be a good role model, nothing compares to a leader.  Because a leader is there to serve his/her constituents and the golfer is there for personal gain – which is to win a tournament.   Leaders do not have tournaments to win and prize money to look forward to, but that does not change the fact that they get up in the morning with the same enthusiasm that perhaps the golfer would not have if they got up on the wrong side of the bed.

In the end, while golf is a great game and most of the people who play this sport uphold a certain standard, a leader is still a true leader because of their selfless act of doing what is best for their people versus themselves.    However, a leader can always be a golfer, but not vice-versa.  What are your thoughts on the comparative analysis?

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About The Author

Articles By will-lukang
A dynamic, multi-faceted Information Technology Leader who demonstrates expertise in translating business needs into technology solutions that meet business objectives while developing strategies to optimize processes that improve efficiency and reduce costs. A certified coach, speaker and training from John Maxwell Team. A co-author of The Character-Based Leader.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Ken Milloy  |  05 Dec 2011  |  Reply

I completely agree with you regarding the congruence between golfer and leader. I think that linkage between golf and business and life in general I like to think of golf as the dominant gene, but that’s another story. Also glad I’m not the only one who thinks about how the great game offers so much….while giving back even more.

As I watched the Cup matches I challenged my self to find linkages between golf and leadership, employee engagement and all else. I kept my notes as a blog in the works and just made notes as I watched and things came to mind…as the list grew I found I had to put the note-taking aside every now and then to stay abreast of the great golf being played. I posted the notes pretty much in raw form on my blog – I am hopeful I can turn at least one of those ideas into a post that offers as much as your post has. Thanks I loved it – a Birdie on the card for you…

Play away….Ken

Will Lukang  |  05 Dec 2011  |  Reply

Hi Ken,

While it is unfair to compare a leader to a golfer, I thought I’ll try an unconventional approach and try a path that is least taken. Thanks for your comments and I look forward to your blog post.


Will Lukang

Najia  |  06 Dec 2011  |  Reply

i like how you have picked up the leadership traits practiced in playing golf… for me every sporting activity is an opportunity to bring out and practice our leadership skills, just like in our daily work or personal lives… saying that ” a leader can always be a golfer, but not vice-versa.” is like saying “not all managers are leaders and vice versa”….

Will Lukang  |  06 Dec 2011  |  Reply

HI Najia,

I believe that not all managers are leaders. To be a leader, a person must be willing to sacrifice for others greater good. A leader is unselfish and put other people’s interest ahead of themselves. They aim to serve others. Leader can paint a share vision and encourage everyone to do what they otherwise cannot do themselves.

Will Lukang

PM Hut  |  06 Dec 2011  |  Reply

Hi Will,

I don’t think the integrity part can be compared. Golfers penalize themselves when they’re wrong for the sole reason that the game won’t be fun anymore if they did not, not because of their integrity. In any case, it’s a god post.

By the way Will, Integrity is a very important thing in project management, we have published an article about it several months ago (you can find it here)

Will Lukang  |  06 Dec 2011  |  Reply

I do agree that integrity is very important, in fact in is important in everything we do. While a golfer can take a penalty stroke or two if they make a mistake, it still takes a certain conviction and belief that doing the right thing regardless of anyone looking at them. I took a lift of faith in comparing golfers to leaders as a developmental exercise of trying to stretch outside of my comfort zone and tried the road less traveled. In the end, I felt that I elicited the conversation that I expected.


Will Lukang

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