Golf fans in the USA and Europe were treated to another beauty. The Tiger-less US team led from start to finish, and recaptured the Ryder Cup title. The final score of 16½ to 11½ betrayed how close the matches actually were. The quality of golf was superb, the sportsmanship, outstanding, and the teamwork in an otherwise individual sport, phenomenal.
The two captains, Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger will get their respective criticism and praise. Paul Azinger had planned for this event for the last 2 years, ever since he was named the team captain. He was looking for a way to recapture American dominance in the Cup which had gone Europe’s way for the last fifteen years, when the US had won only once in the biannual event.
A Ryder Cup captain chooses 4 players out of the 12 (eight earn their way into the event), decides the teams, and the host captain gets to choose which format to use to start the event. But Paul also tried something different. He split his team up into 3 smaller teams, and made them practice together, forming stronger bonds within those mini-teams. And he paired the players based on those teams, and even put them out Sunday in the exact order of those teams.
Was Azinger a genius? It will be hard to argue with success. (See ESPN)
As leaders in the business world, we are often faced with choices not much different than the ones that a Ryder Cup team captain faces. We have talented people who may work well individually, but are not used to working together as team players. We know the game, but we manage the people, and not the game. We try to put together individuals so that form high performance teams so that they care for each other, and they care for the common good of the team.
How many executives will want to be both the best captain and also the best player? How many CEO’s believe that their job is to go out and be the best marketing person or the best engineer for their company? How often have we seen CEO’s outshine the performance of their people, and how often have we seen those companies fail when the CEO leaves with no successor?
Perhaps business leaders should have their hands tied behind their back (like Ryder Cup captains) so that they realize that their primary mission is to unleash the talent of their people, rather than to demonstrate how great of a leader they are.