Tiger Woods’ swing, back in his younger days at least, was like the coiling of a cobra at a mongoose and then—BAM!—the uncoiling of a mousetrap when something nibbled the cheese.
Arnold Palmer, on his follow-through, cocked his head to the side, the way a dog does when you eat invisible food.
As for John Daly— well, he was famous for just gripping it and ripping it. And infamous for sipping it and, when standing over a 3-foot putt, yipping it.
Snowflakes are like golf swings, is how the saying should go, because, if anything, the
latter are more distinctive than the former.
Nicklaus, Lee, Furyk, Lee, Wie, Lee, Mickelson, et al. have etched their names on trophies and jugs with a unique chain reaction of shoulder turns, wrists cocks, weight shifts and forearm rotations.
Given this, you might think there are an infinite number of ways to hit a golf ball and make it go where you want it to.
And yup, you’d be . . . wrong.
Wrong like Roberto (“What a stupid I am”) De Vincenzo at the ’68 Masters, when he missed out on the playoff by writing down the wrong score on the penultimate hole.
Because all these swings have things in common. Regardless of how they get to impact, whether it’s outside-in, inside-out, casting, pronating, supinating, lagging, all wristies, no wristies or laid off, impact is identical.
Hands slightly ahead of the ball, and head slightly behind it. Weight shifting to the front foot. Spine angle intact. At the moment of truth, the moment of contact, the differences evaporate into conformity.
Such TaylorMade comparisons are tailor-made for the business world. As with swings and snowflakes, no two leadership styles are identical. You’ve got the wild-and-crazy guy (think Richard Branson), the frank-talking communicator (Ginni Rometry), the guru (Steve Jobs), the brainiac (Bill Gates), the sage with age (Warren Buffet), the young buck (think Zuck), the empowerer (Meg Whitman), and the swashbuckler (think Elon Musk).
Yet, despite the disparate natures of their outward appearances, their speaking styles, their social skills, their flamboyance or lack thereof, all great leaders, like all great ball-strikers, have one thing in common: They see their visions to all the way to the end.
“I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”—John F. Kennedy, 1961
True, whether you’re launching a spaceship or launching a toothpaste or launching a marketing promotion, you need a vision. But that’s not all you need. You must also implant that vision into the heads of everyone involved. Hence the old tale—whether tall or true—about the time Kennedy was at NASA headquarters in Washington, and saw a janitor mopping the floor.
“What do you do here?” Kennedy asked.
And the janitor, without hesitating, replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
Not only do visions need accomplices, they also need timetables. Otherwise, they’re nothing more than fantasies. Take a second and go back to that Kennedy quote. He said we will put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Not maybe one day. Not perhaps in the future. Not when you folks get around to it.
By the end of the decade.
Or, if you’re less of an aerospace buff and more of a cinema buff, think of the scene from The Shawshank Redemption, when the warden learns Andy Dufresne—a man falsely imprisoned, a man that knew all the sordid secrets about Shawshank, secrets that would put the warden himself behind bars—had escaped sometime between lights-out and daybreak.
The warden, standing in Dufresne’s cell with a couple of prison screws, eh, guards, made his vision as clear as the vein popping out of his forehead.
“I want him found,” he says. “Not tomorrow. Not after breakfast. Now.”
All leaders have visions. Even mediocre leaders can sometimes have great visions. But the truly great leaders, the ones that endure in lean times as well as fat ones, not only have these big, bold, ambitious visions, they also create a sense of urgency around their execution.
Remember that nothing sharpens the mind like a deadline. If you want your vision realized, you need to turn over the hourglass, so everyone involved can see the grains of sand falling away, time that can never be reclaimed or recovered.
And there’s one last thing to keep in mind, and it bears repeating.
It’s not enough to tell your team once what you want them to do and when you want it done. You have to reinforce the message.
Constantly. Unfailingly. Unflinchingly.
Kennedy, up until the day he was assassinated, constantly spoke of this vision to put a man on the moon. It became ingrained into the national psyche, to the point where it wasn’t something out of a Jules Verne novel, but a foregone conclusion. Not only would we do it, but we would do it soon. This constant repeating, repeating, repeating made the vision seem real, long before it was ever realized.
Makes it seem like something that is supposed to happen. Makes it seem pre-ordained. Makes it seem, well, like destiny.