Five leadership lessons every golf fan will love

Keep your leadership skills up to par with these lessons, straight from the course.

I won’t lie. I love golf. It’s my favorite sport and a lifelong passion.

And if you listen to my weekly leadership podcast, How Leaders Lead, then you know that golf comes up quite a bit!

I’ve gotten to have incredible conversations about leadership with people like Jack Nicklaus, “Spider” Miller, Justin Thomas, Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley, USGA President Diane Murphy, and more.

And on Thursday, April 11th, I’m releasing my SECOND conversation with Jon Rahm, one of the world’s best golfers, as he heads down to Augusta to defend his title as Masters champion.

(Make sure you follow How Leaders Lead on Apple or Spotify so you don’t miss it!)

There’s a good reason golf comes up so much in my podcast.

See, golf isn’t just a game. It’s also the setting for some of life’s best wisdom—including plenty of incredible lessons on leadership and business.

So with golf season in … forgive my pun … full swing, I wanted to unpack five key leadership principles that golf has helped me understand better.

If you’re a golfer, you’ll love this. And if you’re not (yet), there are still plenty of insights here for you, too! Let’s jump in.

1. Preparation is everything

There’s an element of natural talent in golf, but it’s the hours of practice and training that really make the difference on your scorecard.

If you’re going to be good at golf—or anything, really—you’ve got to spend time working on it.

I know this is true because Jack Nicklaus told me so!

As you probably know, Jack is regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the game of golf. And when he was on the podcast, I asked him about his incredible consistency over the years.

He told me that his success came down to preparation.

“If you're not prepared,” he says, “you're not gonna perform. And so I think my consistency came because of my desire to focus [on what] I thought was important.”

Now, there’s no doubt about it. Jack Nicklaus has an immense amount of natural talent. But he amplified it with preparation, putting in the hours and focusing on what helped him improve.

In business, it's the same. Being smart and talented is great. But you can’t just sit back and rely on that. You’ve got to back it up with focus and hard work.

If you truly want to stand out, take the time to prepare. Come to meetings with research and clear thinking already done. Go the extra mile in your analysis. Grind out the hard work.

Whether you’re trying to advance your career or reduce your handicap, there’s no better foundation for success than good, old-fashioned preparation.

2. The power of routine

Ever noticed how every decent golfer has a pre-shot routine? It’s a repeatable set of actions they go through before each and every ball strike.

It's not just for show—it's a carefully honed ritual that helps them get in the zone and stay focused under pressure.

Golf teaches us that it’s key to have process and discipline around what really matters.

For example, you might start your deep work with a cup of coffee and a quick meditation session. That repeatable process can “cue” your mind that it’s time to focus.

Your team can benefit from routines, too. By setting a regular structure for meetings and check-ins, you can help everyone stay more aligned, connected, and productive.

Take a lesson from golf and embrace routines. They’ll help you stay grounded, focused, and ready to tackle whatever challenges come your way.

3. Relationships matter

Almost anyone who plays golf will tell you that ultimately, it's not really about technique, scores, and equipment (although we love all that stuff, too).

It’s about the relationships you make out on the course.

In fact, I’d guess that 75% of the guests on my podcast are people I got to know while playing golf.

And there’s a good reason for that!

You can learn almost everything you need to know about a person by spending four hours on a course with them. How they treat others. The way they keep score. How they respond to their good shots—and, more tellingly, their bad ones.

It’s no different in business.

Strategy and execution are vital, of course. But at the end of the day, the most satisfying part of work is the relationships you build with your team, your peers, and your customers.

Make people your priority. Develop your team. Listen to customers. Be intentional about the culture you build. It’ll create the kind of trust and connection you need to drive strong results, too.

Nobody wants to play with a golfer who has no regard for the other people on the course. So apply that same principle in leadership, and never let high-pressure stakes or goals keep you from putting people first.

4. There’s always room to improve

“If I hadn’t missed that birdie putt on 16…”

“If I’d just hit the fairway a few more times…”

Ask a golfer about their round, and you’re bound to hear about the handful of strokes they left out there in “what-if” moments like these.

We always know exactly where and how we could have improved our score—even if it was a great round.

I love how NFL legend Larry Fitzgerald put it when I asked him about taking up golf after he retired. He was brand new to the game, but he caught the bug quickly.

He was drawn to how there’s always a chance to improve and do better. “You’ll never be able to beat the game [of golf]” he said, and that feeling “keeps you hungry, trying to chase it.”

That's a good mentality for every leader, too, isn’t it? We can never stop looking for ways to improve, to chase the next level of excellence.

I call it having a “healthy sense of paranoia” about your competition, so that you can stay ahead of what’s happening in the marketplace and never get too complacent with your success.

Even when things are going well, think like a golfer and stay attuned to the ways you could get just a little bit better.

5. Learn to bounce back

When you stop and think about it, golf is a little ridiculous. There’s a 4.25” hole a quarter mile away from you. You’re supposed to get a tiny ball in it. All you have to help you is a bunch of fancy sticks. And it’s only supposed to take you a few tries!

In a game like that, you’re bound to make some mistakes. When I hit a bad shot, I ask myself, why did that happen? I diagnose what went wrong, and then I rehearse the shot again, correcting my mistake.

That simple action allows me to stop dwelling on the bad shot, so I can focus on the next shot and get back on track with my round.

Every leader experiences setbacks, big and small. It’s how we respond to them that makes all the difference.

Let's say things don’t go as planned for a day, or a meeting, or a whole project. Just like a bad shot, take a moment and learn from it. Then consider it history and go on to the next thing with what you’ve learned.

Your ability to manage your mentality in situations when you need to bounce back is a huge piece of your success, both on the course and at work.


I love golf for so many reasons, but I especially love how it’s helped me develop as a person and a leader. There are so many lessons waiting to be discovered on a golf course.

Just like leadership, it’s a place where preparation is vital. Where discipline and relationships matter deeply. Where there’s always room to improve and learn from your mistakes.

If you’re a golfer, I hope these parallels inspire you to up your leadership game.

And if you’re not a golfer, look around your life and find ways you can glean leadership lessons from whatever activities you enjoy.