As the world watched Jordan Spieth, the 24-year-old golfer phenom from Texas, in the midst of a monumental collapse at the 146th British Open. It was reminiscent of his implosion at the 2016 Masters. With a five-shot lead with nine holes to play at the first Major Tournament of the year, he lost.
This time at Royal Birkdale his 3-stroke lead at the start of the final day of play had vanished by the fourth hole. His struggles continued for 8 more holes and then on the lengthy 13th hole, his tee shot ended up to the far right of the fairway. It took a tremendous recovery to score a bogey, which was described as a "miracle shot from the wilderness". When things could not have looked worse, Spieth could never have looked any better as he went on to win by three strokes.
And now, as he plays in the only Major Tournament he hasn't won, the PGA Championship, it is worth pausing for a moment and reflecting on what one of golf's youngest and most impressive stars can teach us about leadership. In particular, the most important challenge for all leaders, how to lead yourself!
5 Enviable Leadership Lessons Jordan Spieth Has Taught:
1. He embraces his frailties
Spieth is vulnerable in all the best ways. He is candid on what he thinks and feels without playing the politically correct buzz word game. He is authentic in the way he engages people and emits a real sense of joy for the opportunity to share his opinion. He is especially refreshing under pressure by just expressing what he thinks and feels. He doesn't avoid his true emotions or the thorny questions. Spieth shows us how to embrace our fragilities without embarrassment and have a sense of hope to be better the next time, next round, or next tournament.
2. He believes success is a "we" thing
Watching Spieth you can catch him talking to his ball. He talks to his caddie Michael Greller almost constantly throughout a round. However, when Spieth talks to others he typically uses the "we" pronoun. He is one of the first to view golf as a team sport which includes his caddie, his swing coach, his family, and his support system. In a game that has always been anything but a team sport, he has found a way of not taking solo credit, ensuring that all members of his team know that he only standing in the winner's circle because of them!
3. He sees getting back on track as a creative challenge
Watching Spieth you get the sense he is often a kid on an adventurous scavenger hunt. Only in his case, he seems to be working with his team to solve the golf course puzzle. But no place is he better than getting back on track when everything is going wrong.
Sure, in the 2016 Masters things went wrong and he didn't recover. But did you see what he did in winning the 2017 British Open? He made "the hole where it all went very wrong" (13th), the turning point for his victory. Consider how bad it was on the 13th hole in the final round of the 146th British Open. His tee shot went so far away from the fairway the word "horrendous" was kind a way of describing the shot and the position he was in. After he found the ball, it turned out to be on the backside of the second highest and steepest dune on the course.
He determined it was un-playable and spent 20 minutes trying to decide where he could hit the next shot from. Considering the complete chaos, the raindrops, the blind shot he had to hit, the lack of clarity on the distance, and the do or die situation he was in, his level-headedness was astounding. He recalibrated success and set to make it happen.
Spieth authored the latest chapter in his ever-growing legend by making a putt from 7 feet to bogey the hole and then went on to win by three strokes when he finished 3 birdies and an eagle. For those not familiar with golf - these are astounding feats. Again, at the point most of us would "loose it all" and possibly whisper to ourselves "why me", Spieth had the ability to slow down all the noise, reframe the problem into a creative challenge, and to summon all his skills with excitement to conquer the problem at hand. He teaches us that rock bottom can be a magic place to turn it all around. In just 20 minutes Jordan taught a PhD course in critical thinking and execution and didn't let his mistake paralyze him.
4. He doesn't just respect the competition, he enjoys them
Most players play the course, but also compete with the other players. Upon reaching the green on the now famous 13th at the British Open, Spieth apologized to his playing partner Matt Kuchar for taking so long to play the hole. During anxiety rich competition, he seems to know that his competitors can be teachers, mentors, partners and true friends to enjoy the moment.
5. He relentlessly builds and executes a mental rehearsal game plan
Spieth uses mental rehearsal and preparation of a game plan to help create a strategy that he can execute. When he finds himself in good or bad situations, often it won't be the first time. This exact situation was likely part of the the preparation plan.
The reason why success occurs is because he has been there before in his planning and preparation. He is not just swinging a 6 iron or stroking a putt, he is playing a constant mental game of staying positive and never letting fear of failure or negative mental approach enter the game.
More than Swinging a Club
We can learn so much more from our sports heroes than simply how to swing the club, score the basket, or catch the ball. The physical skills are important for success, but the mental expertise are what win the game. How can you use the lesson taught by this champion to be an MVP in your leadership game?