You Can't Win at Golf with Just One Club: Coaching Leaders for Today's Complex Business World
by Ellen Samiec and Scott Campbell
Imagine this scene: Tiger Woods arrives for the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia with only a driver in his golf bag. When asked, "Where are your other clubs?" he replies,
"Well, my driver is my favourite club, and I figured I could just use it for all my shots."
As ridiculous as this sounds, many executives and business leaders use the same logic when leading their organizations or business units; they utilize a single approach to leadership--typically
"command & control." While business coaches usually try to shake these leaders loose from relying on a commanding approach, they too frequently fall prey to the same underlying assumption: there is one
right way to lead that will work in all situations. Not surprisingly, the leadership style usually suggested as the replacement for commanding is coaching.
The truth is, there is no one right way to lead! Relying on any one approach is like trying to win at golf with just one club.
In our book, 5-D Leadership: Key Dimensions for Leading in the Real World (Davies-Black, 2005),
we define effective leadership as "achieving desired results through people's willing participation." Through our experience and research, we have concluded that there are five key leadership
approaches--what we term Leadership Dimensions--which effective leaders use to respond to the demands of today's complex business world.
What follows in this article is an overview of these Five Dimensions. Readers can refer to the chart at the end of the article for a convenient summary of the definition, strategic objectives,
and appropriate contexts for each of the five Dimensions.
Dimension # 1 - Commanding: Taking Charge
As mentioned above, business coaches and leadership experts have been proclaiming the end of the Commanding era in business leadership for at least fifteen years.
However, there is a danger in this dismissal. There are times when Commanding is not only acceptable, it's desirable. In certain contexts, business coaches may actually need to assist their
clients in developing the skills and perspectives needed to "command" effectively.
We define Commanding as taking charge and seeking immediate compliance to quickly effect a desired result. The primary context in which this Dimension is needed is a genuine
crisis, particularly in turnaround situations or tragedies. In these circumstances, the need for quick decisions, combined with employee insecurities, call for a Commanding approach.
New York mayor Rudy Giuliani's remarkable leadership during the days and weeks following 9/11 are a powerful testament to the benefits of a Commanding approach during difficult days. Giuliani
had, in fact, been at his lowest ebb in opinion polls just prior to the attack on the Twin Towers. His reputation was salvaged (to the point of winning Time magazine's Person of the Year award for 2001) due to
his strong leadership in its aftermath. His efficiency, aura of authority, rapid decision making, inspirational words, and compassionate actions towards the victims and their families fit perfectly the needs and
demands of the moment. The strength of his Commanding approach allayed people's fears, renewed their hope, and gave them an emotional anchor in the days following the terrorist attacks.
When circumstances are dire--during turnarounds and tragedies--people look for Commanders. As Faye Wattleton of the Center for Gender Equality says, "The only safe ship in a storm is
Nonetheless, it is quite common to find leaders over-relying on Commanding, using it in non-crisis contexts. The result is significant damage to morale, retention, and peak performance. It is
therefore critical that leaders, and business coaches who work with them, be aware of the four other Leadership Dimensions and the contexts in which they are appropriate.
Dimension # 2 - Visioning: Pointing the Way
While you can command short-term compliance, you can't command ongoing commitment. One of the most powerful approaches for fostering lasting commitment to excellence is through the skilled use of the Visioning
Dimension. As Peter Senge says, "Few, if any, forces are as powerful in human affairs as shared vision."
Visioning is defined as creating and effectively communicating a clear and compelling picture of a worthwhile vision for the group. While visioning is needed in many different business
contexts, it is particularly important in times of organizational change.
The story of Jan Carlzon's leadership at the helm of Scandinavian Airline Systems (SAS) in the 1980's is a notable illustration of the Visioning dimension of leadership and its positive impact
on staff morale, productivity, and company profitability. Carlzon employed a variety of means to create a new passion around the vision of delivering outstanding customer service each and every time a
passenger had contact with the airline. In a single year, SAS employees turned a $20 million loss into a $54 million profit! The airline went on to garner several awards in the 1980s. In Carlzon's own words,
"The new energy at SAS was the result of 20,000 employees all striving toward a single goal every day" (Carlzon 1987, 27). That is the power of shared vision.
Dimension # 3 - Enrolling: Getting Buy-In
Margaret Wheatley states, "People only support what they create." As a Leadership Dimension, Enrolling involves creating buy-in and commitment by genuinely seeking input and/or employing democratic
decision making processes. A skilled use of Enrolling fosters high degrees of employee commitment and leads to high quality decision making and production.
The recent history of Harley-Davidson provides a powerful example of the benefits of Enrolling. While a Commanding approach--driven by its (then) CEO, Vaughan Beals--had brought the company back
from the brink of bankruptcy, Enrolling sustained and improved its performance in recent years. Richard Teerlink, Beal's successor, understood the limitations of a Commanding approach when not
facing a crisis, and led instead with an Enrolling emphasis.
In late 1988, Harley's senior management team began a number of initiatives designed to elicit the ideas, concerns, complaints, and dreams of all its employees. In the early 1990s, a
"Joint Partnership" committee was created between management and the unions to foster continuous improvement at the company. The ensuing results at Harley--sustained profits and renewed market
leadership throughout the 1990s--speak to the power of Enrolling.
Teerlink later stated, "I myself didn't have a plan for the company in my back pocket. I only knew that capturing the ideas of our people--all the people at Harley--was critical to our
future success" (Teerlink 2000, 5).
Dimension # 4 - Relating: Creating Harmony
We define Relating as creating and sustaining strong relationships (1) between you and individual staff members, and (2) between staff members themselves. The goal of Relating is the creation of
harmonious working relationships characterized by mutual trust, respect, and goodwill. The use of this Dimension has tremendous positive payoffs for both the leader and the organization.
Mike Abrashoff's leadership as Commander of the USS Benfold, an awe-inspiring, guided-missile Naval destroyer, provides an outstanding example of the skillful use and practical benefits
of the Relating Dimension. Although a Naval destroyer may be an unexpected setting for this Dimension, under his leadership in the latter half of the 1990s the Benfold went from having one of the worst
retention rates in the Navy to 100% re-enlistment, and having one of the worst states of combat readiness to winning the coveted Spokane Trophy for best combat readiness in the fleet. Abrashoff attributes much of
this success to the emphasis he placed on his personal relationship with the crew and attending to relationships between crewmembers. Abrashoff demonstrated a skilled use of the Relating Dimension in numerous
- learning the names, family history, and personal story of every one of his 310 crewmembers
- instilling a sense of each member's personal importance to him, regardless of rank
- attending to issues of harmonious crew relationships and potential discrimination against women and minorities
Positive relationships are the lubricant that keeps the "work-engine" turning smoothly. The Relating Dimension is the approach that creates and sustains those relationships.
Dimension # 5 - Coaching: Developing People
The Coaching Dimension focuses on developing an individual's potential and performance while aligning the individual's goals and values with those of the organization.
One of our colleagues, Carole Cameron, recently described to us the positive outcome of having a manager (Phil Geldart) who was adept at coaching during her tenure at Nestl
Canada. Here is Carole's assessment of Phil's impact on her and the organization:
The lessons I learned from Phil greatly allowed me to develop my skills as a trainer and deepened my confidence to move my career forward in the Performance Development Department. What I
experienced in being coached was typical for all his staff. Phil always focused on developing his people.
Phil not only enhanced the lives and careers of his direct reports, he also used his coaching style to help create a corporate culture that was founded in respect for the individual and a
commitment to the development and strengthening of others. When Phil left Nest he left behind him a seamless succession in his own department,
and an organization with a solid leadership base.
Just as great golfers use all the clubs at their disposal, great leaders use all five Leadership Dimensions at their disposal--the choice of Dimension is governed by the context and desired outcomes they
want to achieve. The masterful use of all five Dimensions is critical to achieving desired results through people's willing participation.
The Five Leadership Dimensions
Carlzon, Jan. 1987. Moments of Truth. New York: Harper Perennial.
Teerlink, Richard. July 2000. "Harley's Leadership U-Turn." Harvard Business Review 78:4, 43-48.
Ellen Samiec is the Director of Coaching for 5D Leadership. She works with
executives and business leaders across Canada, the United States and Australia, helping them leverage their strengths to overcome challenges and achieve breakthrough results. Read more about Ellen in the WABC
Coach Directory. Ellen may be reached by email at Ellen@5DLeadership.com.
Scott Campbell, Director of Training for 5D Leadership, is an international speaker, author and consultant whose clients include Nike, IBM,
General Electric and Proctor & Gamble. Scott may be reached by email at Scott@5DLeadership.com.
Ellen and Scott are co-authors of 5-D Leadership (Davies-Black Publishing, Oct. 2005).