The foundation of all successful leadership is always the relationship

Teddy Roosevelt care quoteI started golfing with my older brother when I was about ten years old. Since my brother and I were a twosome, the starters on the course always found two other players to join us to make a foursome. Most of the time, the two other players were older gentlemen.

These older gentlemen would instruct us after most every shot. I found it puzzling that these gentlemen, who couldn’t hit the ball any farther or straighter than either my brother or I, and had just spent the afternoon giving us advice, would always leave the course with a smile and a handshake, saying they enjoyed golfing with us and reminding us of that one hole, or sometimes a single shot, that one of us had played well.

These older players weren’t just playing golf with a couple of young kids. They were building relationships.  I still remember them today. They had a life-long influence on how I play the game of golf, and how I lead.

Sure, I learned some of the basics of golf – head down, follow through – but more importantly I discovered that sustained success comes from enjoying the journey and celebrating the small successes along the way.

The relationship built through leadership is remembered long after understanding and knowledge are imparted.

Sounds easy, right?  Build a good relationship while you lead your team through the technical requirements.

I found that almost any smart person can teach you the fundamentals of your job. But there are only a few bosses that I really remember fondly, and those were the ones that took the time to build a relationship. The reason this doesn’t happen more often according to Roger Enrico, former Chairman of Pepsico and Dreamworks: “The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff.”

Relationships take investment, and unlike teaching technical knowledge, you are never done.  But, if you want to be the leader who is able to influence your team to life-long success, it’s the only way.

Remember what Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”


2 Responses to The foundation of all successful leadership is always the relationship
  1. Zachary Slade

    Enjoyed reading this & always like golf/sports analogies. Was listening to John Maxwell a few days back and came across a segment where he was talking about what he had leaned from watching Arnold Palmer golf. His point was that every shot you take is completely independent of the last shot. However, most individuals let it get in their head. They turn a bad hole into a bad round…. Instead of just having one bad hole in a mostly good round. Maxwell claims this is partly what made Arnold Palmer such a great golfer. He understood this concept.

    Liked your point about, “Enjoying the journey and celebrating the small successes along the way”. This leads to greater preformance. If we’re not enjoying the process we’re probably thinking about it the wrong way.

    • Denis G. McLaughlin

      Thanks Zach, I often find the game of Golf provides many life lessons for me.