It has been said, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together”. Others suggest that it takes a village to succeed. Many say there is no ‘i’ in team. Two heads are better than one. Ultimately, success in work and in life is about leadership – it is about taking decisions, being accountable, taking responsibility for your actions and those around you. It is about choices.
When walking the fairway of Royal Birkdale today – day three of eight of my Open Championship odyssey – you could have been mistaken for viewing golf as a team game. The players are surrounded by professional advisors and helpers in all shapes and sizes and by well-meaning amateurs who are never short of a word or two of advice or feedback after a shot. There is consultation before and after each shot. There is data to support the decision making on club selection and wind direction. There are mid-course conferences to discuss strategy – should we hit and iron or driver from this tee; what is the best line to take here; how far do I need to land this ball to put myself in the best position to attack the green?
So much of the deliberation is done as a unit; as a group. But in the final analysis, only one person determines who wins the Open on Sunday evening. Only one person is responsible for how the ball is propelled around the links; for the number of blows struck between Thursday and Sunday that determines who is the Champion Golfer of the year. That person is not the caddie. Coach. Sports psychologist. Fitness trainer. Manager. Putting coach. Travel booker. That person is the golfer. The man – it is a man this week – who swings the club and hits the ball.
Ultimately he makes the final decisions. He executes the strategy. His actions determine which side of the line between success and failure is found. Leadership in the workplace is no different. Taking advice is critically important. Good leaders are good listeners. They use evidence to inform them. They look at all the options. They take time to plot the right course. But in the end, good leaders make the final decision and stand behind their team and support them. No-one else is to blame. No-one else should take responsibility. No-one else is in the hot seat. Just them.
It may take a village to support a leader but it takes a real leader to make success happen. Whether you’re hitting a golf shot or running a business, the final decisions are yours. Leaders stand up and are counted.