6 critical leadership lessons you can learn from golf

Puneet Kaur Kohli, Group Executive Vice President IT and CTO, Bajaj Capital Limited, believes playing golf really does make you a better leader. By Shweta Gandhi

Ask Puneet Kaur Kohli where she is on any Sunday at 6 am, and pat comes the answer: “Golf course!” This IT leader’s passion for sports started with badminton, which she has played for several years. But then she got introduced to golf and there’s been no looking back. Puneet is now a regular at the lush greens of TERI Golf Course, IMT Manesar Golf Course and the Hamoni Golf Camp in Gurgaon, where she goes regularly to practice her skills and destress. “Golf has made me a better leader. It’s a source of passion that also helps me find creative solutions to problems at work,” she says.

“In February around 25 CIOs got together for a CIO Golf Course pledge. Now, we meet every weekend to play. We even competed for a tournament in April,” she says excitedly. Puneet has 20 years of global experience in developing and implementing strategic plans and end user services. At Bajaj Capital she provides the technology vision and leadership for IT initiatives while collaborating with leaders and managing a team of professionals accountable for delivery of all the IT services in the organisation. Here she tells us the lessons she’s learnt from the game of golf.

#1 Patience is valuable
“To play golf, you need a lot of patience, which in turn gives you a lot of strength and resilience. In golf, you have a handicap that you need maintain. Similarly, as a leader or a manager, you have to take care of real objectives that have to be struck off your list, for which patience is the most important skill. Golf has calmed me down, taught me how to listen to people and has made me a better mentor as well.”

#2 You need a work-life balance
“It takes some real dedication to wake up on a Sunday morning at 5.30 and head to the gof course. I do it because I really enjoy playing and golf helps me better manage my stress. When you spend time doing something you enjoy you’re providing an emotional balance to your life. The hobby becomes a source of happiness, a way to channel your passion. And this stays with you even when you’re at work trying to juggle a difficult situation. It provides crucial work-life balance.”

#3 Trust your instincts
“Taking a shot has a lot to do with trusting your instincts, which is also a key aspect of being a leader. You decide your approach and up to what level you can make a shot: it is right? Is it within the boundary? As a leader or a mentor, you do the same. You take one task and structure it according to risk analysis and mitigation planning. You see how you have to deal with the situation, and you do some project planning, all based on your instincts. It all goes hand-in-hand.”

#4 Set constant tests for yourself
“In golf, players are always trying to up their game. In leadership, you’re also trying to improve yourself all the time. If you are playing a nine-hole game and, say, you aim to finish it within six hits, but you exceed it, it’s alright. You have to be honest and loyal to yourself, accept your weaknesses—that’s the only way you can keep improving. I accept my failures very openly. With time, playing golf teaches you leadership and credibility comes with it. While playing, all players make mistakes, but it’s all about learning from the failures.”

#5 Timing is important
“Timing is important in golf, as well as in leadership. In golf, it’s all about creating timelines and finishing your game in a row, benchmarking to improvise your score. As a leader, you have the same business scorecards—you have to do some strategic planning, meet timelines. I would recommend reviewing your scorecard every 15 days to know if you’re on track or if you’re digressing. As an honest leader, you have to keep this in mind as there is no room for deviation later.”

#6 Practice makes perfect
“Practice makes perfect, but perfect practice makes you more perfect. This applies in golf, as well as in leadership. You need to get the right practice—in golf, you have caddies who play with you. In the workplace, having a mentor helps you in your pitches to see if you’re using the right tools. Talking to people about your experience and consulting others can help a lot in improving yourself. Moreover, being humble is really vital and goes a long way.” 

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