The 2014 Ryder Cup...A Lesson In Contrasting Leadership

Oct 07 2014

I happen to enjoy golf and often find it a metaphor for business. I saw a leadership lesson in play during the 2014 Ryder Cup. The captain for the United States, Tom Watson, and Paul McGinley for Europe demonstrated two contrasting styles of leadership. Command and control was Watson's style and inclusive leadership was McGinley's.

McGinley went deep in gathering his input in formulating his game plan and selecting his team. Including his players, vice captains, as well as, the players and their caddies and coaches, he formulated a team which consisted of qualifiers and captain's picks. He wanted to determine who was playing well and knew he would get valid insights from the people he consulted. He also knew that they all believed in the goal of winning the Ryder Cup for Europe- more than that, this was the biggest event of the year from their perspective with only one possible exception, The Open. His role was to formulate the team and the game plan with the suggestions and input from others- knowing it was his decision in the final analysis but he would gain input and buy-in from the other stakeholders. As a matter of fact, he was selected as captain with player input- a process which the PGA of the US has not adopted.

Everyone knew their role and the objective was clear, "win the Ryder Cup for Europe", as well as, team bonding and enjoyment of the experience. The United States team had the same winning objective, but went about it differently. Watson, a Hall of Fame player, five time Open Champion with wins in Scotland, past Ryder Cup Captain and player seemed to be a good choice. But his style was the opposite of Paul McGinley's inclusion style. Watson picked older captains with only one being close to the players. Watson stated that he would consult with his captains to determine the team play. As you can see, he did not go as deeply to include as many stakeholders. As a matter of fact it was "his way" and he would make all the decisions. However, the decisions did not have the buy-in of the players. I am sure they had little input into who played when or why. It appeared to be very autocratic.

The US had other issues too- they were not accustomed to spending time together socially- where the European team often traveled and socialized together on tour events. So Tom needed to overcome this deficit. By not gaining consensus or close to it, he created division, frustration and fragmentation among the players. Phil Mickelson, unwisely and inappropriately went public at the final team press conference when he described the leadership style used by former Ryder Cup captain, Paul Azinger, would have been more appropriate. This was clearly a low point of a great event ...controversy.

High Functioning Team Characteristics:

There is a lesson for business leaders. To build a team there must be: defined roles, inclusion, consensus of a high majority of those affected and 100 per cent supported by team , clear and shared goals, trust and respect, reasonable span of control 5-8 or sub teams will develop, rules for decision making, open communication, common values, one leader, synergy, opportunity for mutual growth, mutual response bonds and interdependence.

How did the European Ryder Cup under McGinley stack up?

Which team qualities were missing from the US team under Watson?

Now take and apply the team characteristics to your team. How do you stack up?


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