Leadership Lessons from the Putting Green

The driving range had just closed when I got there. So, I had two choices: practice chipping or practice putting. Chipping is the strongest part of my golf game and putting my absolute weakest. I chose putting. After I putted for about 45 minutes, I thought about the importance of focusing on strengths–and on weaknesses, or aspects that need to be developed for managers.

At CCL, we have studied derailed managers for decades, those managers who had all the makings of being successful leaders in the organization, but for some reason, their career flamed out, they burned out, they got demoted, fired, or their career reached a plateau. In short, their careers stopped progressing.

We have learned from this research that strengths overplayed become weaknesses. I could have practiced my strength (chipping) but if I only did that, I would be neglecting other parts of my game (putting) that are just as important, if not more important. The same thing is true with leading – if leaders only focus on using their strengths, they are neglecting other parts that they will need in order to advance in their careers.

This week, I hope you do these things:

  1. Take time to understand what your strengths are. Use them appropriately, but don’t overuse them. Don’t rely on them all the time.
  2. Take time to think about what areas of development or weaknesses you have. If you can’t think of any, ask people (a mentor, your boss, a trusted peer, friend, family member) to give you some critical feedback on what you need to improve to help you now and in the future.
  3. Get buy-in from those you work and live with, to assist you in developing those skills that you need the most help in.

If you do those three things, not just this week but on a regular basis, you will be well on your way toward success and off the track towards managerial and career derailment.


About Bill Gentry

William (Bill) is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and also an adjunct assistant professor at several colleges and universities. In applying his research into practice, Bill’s current focus is on helping leaders who are managing for the first time in their life. His research interests are in multisource (360) research, survey development and analysis, leadership and leadership development across cultures, leader character and integrity, mentoring, managerial derailment, multilevel measurement, and in the area of organizational politics and political skill in the workplace. He received a BA from Emory University and an MS and PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Georgia. Follow Bill on Twitter: Lead_Better
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