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  • Writer's pictureRCA

Deconstructing Effective Leadership: The Golf Club

It's no secret that an organisational culture is defined by the degree to which the leaders of said organisation drive thinking and behaviour. Cultures don't create themselves and like human beings, require constant nourishment to grow. The golf club at large currently finds itself in a precarious position as a result of it's place in society being so uncertain. The reason why people choose to be a member of a club today differs significantly from the reasons of the past. The challenge for the leader(s) within the golf club is getting everyone in the value chain to understand why people still choose to retain their membership and then to maximise the value proposition as a result of that understanding.

If one looks beyond the industry of golf at globally successful organisations/brands/companies, one common thread becomes interestingly evident; they know who they are as well as who they are NOT. Confucius taught us that the man who chases two rabbits, catches neither. A golf club that tries to be too many things to too many people seises to have an identity. The challenge in a testing economy is, not taking every bit of revenue and rather having the bravery and courage to stick to a strategy that is aligned to the identity and therefore the objectives of the club.

Golf clubs, generally speaking, tend to struggle with the process of defining who they are and consequently, an effective strategy, chiefly because there are invariably too many chefs in the kitchen. Whilst many people believe that a committee serves a golf club's best interests, it often does the exact opposite. To justify the above statement, look at why people join a committee. Is it because they want to contribute beyond themselves OR because there's an ego that used to be stroked in a boardroom which has been itching for a scratch? You be the judge in your respective club. A club culture should be no different to that of the greatest sports teams. No individual is ever greater than the team. A leader who understood this better than anyone was Sir Alex Ferguson, former Manager of Manchester United Football Club. As soon as a singular player became bigger than the team, their time at Old Trafford had drawn to a close. The team always came first.

An effective leadership structure exists where the committee (if there is one) contributes from a strategic perspective but allows the GM/CEO the rope to execute in the manner that is true to their personality and experience. When committee members start meddling in the execution of the strategy, ownership of successes and failures become blurred. The outcome is a lack of accountability where the committee blames the manager for a lack of execution and the manager blames the committee for meddling. The most effective Springbok rugby coaches have not necessarily been the best tacticians, it has been those with the courage of their convictions to stick to a clear plan regardless of outside forces interfering with the long terms objectives.

When the manager is allowed to execute the strategy to the best of their abilities, there is full accountability. The great managers of the club industry are not those who understand the most about the game, it is those who understand the most about those who choose to be members and customers of their club. Great managers have an ineffable need to ensure that every customer visiting the club experiences the best version of the collective offering. Great managers prioritise the customer experience over a handicap dispute because they understand that former delivers true value and the latter can be sorted out by someone less senior and is therefore an ineffective use of their time. Knowing what is important differentiates a manager that is earning a pay-check from someone adding true value to the club,

A common question posed in these uncertain times of the golf industry is, 'Which clubs will remain relevant and which will fade into obscurity?" The simple reality is that remaining relevant is about being perceived as a destination that adds significant value to a customer's life. If the leadership of a club does not understand what the modern day customer wants and as a result are not implementing a strategy to meet and exceed these needs through infrastructure as well as the gate to gate experience, the likelihood becomes less with every passing day. There is no shortage of good ideas in this world, there is however a dire need for execution on sound strategy.

Elect committee members who serve the greater good of the club and not their own sense of relevance. Employ a manager who is strong on execution and not lip service. Choose suppliers that are obsessive about the customer experience and understand your customer. Hire staff, not based on a CV but on their ability to live the values inherent to your strategy so that customer (the most important person in this equation) feels the best degree of value. Relevance is not an end goal but the result of the right culture being inherent in the business. It may say 'club' on the wall but the best run it like it should be, a business.

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