Managing Misses

If you know me at all, you know I love to play golf. I'm not much of a golfer; I need to play more and am confident I could get there.

Even still, over the past few years I've taken golf lessons with a guy I met through a mutual friend. He's helped the fundamentals of my swing a little bit but has helped the fundamentals of my thinking a lot. He has helped me approach shots differently, and think-through every hole differently. As a result my golf scores are starting to really improve.

One of the big things he says on a regular basis is that "Golf is not about playing great shots. It's about managing your misses." The other day I heard someone quote Jack Nicklaus who said in a great round he only hits the ball exactly like he hoped 6 or 8 times (less than 10 percent of the time), and he's the greatest golfer to have ever lived.

A lesson I'm learning about leadership (especially senior-level leadership) is that the great leaders I know function in a very similar way.

There are very few perfect decisions because there are no perfect leaders and very few perfect scenarios. All decisions have collateral effects, not all of which are expected and not all of which are enjoyable. Leaders rarely have all the information they need to make flawless decisions when they need to make them, and rarely have the ability to pull off the "shot" that looks exactly like the shot they imagined in their mind.

Leadership is not about hitting perfect "shots." It's about putting yourself in a position to manage your misses.
You have to hit shots in such a way that they're able to be great, but not catastrophic if you miss. Shots with a catastrophic downside are rarely worth taking - you can't recover from them.

You'll live an awfully discouraged life if you try to lead perfectly.The great leaders I know don't make exclusively perfect decision. In fact, they rarely make perfect decisions. Instead, they're able to string together a bunch of manageable misses that move them forward effectively.