When Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus in the “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry in the 1977 British Open, the oldest of golf’s four major championships, my Mom was in her second trimester with me.

32 years later, 2 months shy of his 60th birthday, Watson almost won the British Open again, but fell short in a playoff game.

Greg Norman was my favorite golfer growing up, but I also liked Tom Watson a lot. Watson was a gentleman on and off the course, knowledgeable of the game and respectful of its history and traditions, and was, and still is, a great golfer. While listening to an interview with Watson, two things jumped out at me that I thought could be helpful to leaders, whether they play golf or not.

1) Have a gameplan – Watson was asked how he was handling being almost 60 years old and leading a major. Watson said that for the entire week, he had a gameplan, and he was sticking to his gameplan.

Leaders need to have a gameplan, a vision, a mission, strategy, purpose statement, some sort of plan for their own development, for leading others, or for leading their organization. Take the time to think about it. Then document it, make it real, tangible. Don’t just think about it and keep it in your head, document it, write it out, make it real.

2) Believe that you are meant to be in a position of greatness – Watson had great practice rounds that week. He won majors before, he loved the course, he felt his game was in great shape, he thought that he still could win at almost 60, and that he was meant to be there.

Leaders need to feel the same; whatever the situation, leaders need to feel like they are meant to be there. If leaders are in good situations, they need to feel they are meant to lead through the good times and push themselves, others, and the organizations forward toward even more prosperous times. If leaders are in not-so-good situations, leaders also need to feel they are meant to be there, that they have the ability, motivation, drive, skills, and all the essential qualities to get themselves, others, and the organization out of the tough time and back on solid ground. Many times we shy away from situations. Watson did not.

It would have been a great story to see Tom Watson win another major. Some storybook endings actually happen in life, but this one didn’t. There is always a lesson to be learned in any story. I hope leaders learn from Tom Watson’s loss to Stewart Cink in that playoff game: Have a gameplan and believe you are meant to be in a position of greatness.

Do you have a gameplan?

– Bill Gentry

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