A Life Well Played 

It’s more than leadership lessons; they’re life lessons from the legacy he made and the example of how one should live their life. Everyone who’s come in contact with Arnold Palmer has an “Arnold Palmer” story. Everyone has respect and admiration for the humble and natural super star who came along during a perfect time transcending professional sports around the world through a new medium in television.

Through the decades of working with managers and leaders at all levels, I’ve come to see the good and the ugly in the thousands of men and women who are “in charge” of people – none of us are above anyone, ever. The lessons of leadership are based in the simple values handed down thousands of years ago so simply exemplified by the man simply known as The King. He was more than an important figure to the game of golf, but of all sports. He left an indelible imprint on countless lives and his legacy will continue to be honored yearly through the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Not only every golfer, but every athlete owes an impossible debt to repay of gratitude that allows us to play the sports we love and get paid for. This list could be never ending, it is what resonates with me and hopefully will with you too.

Look Everyone in the Eye. A great truth to connecting with someone is to look people in the eye. With eyes as windows to the soul, Pap, instilled in his son Arnold Palmer the importance to this trait. Everyone has an Arnold Palmer story and everyone who saw him on the golf course would come away with the same statement, “…he was looking right at me.” If you cannot look someone in the eye, then how are you going to establish a relationship built on trust with anyone? At the end of your days on this earth, the only thing you can take to your grave will be the memories and the relationships you forged in the brief time you were here.

Give a Firm Handshake. A confidence sense of self and the ability to translate a desire of trust and friendship begins with a firm handshake. In our litigious society, the many days of businesses forged on a handshake are very few. On a simple handshake, Mr. Palmer and Mark McCormack forged a machine of marketing enterprise that to this day has transcended amateur and professional sports around the world. A handshake unites people, communities and countries built on a foundation of trust and respect. Next time you have an opportunity to establish, build and even correct a relationship, do it with a handshake and look them in the eye.

What will you answer to, “What do you collect?” – mementos, pictures, autographs? I collect relationships.

Treat People With Respect. We see on social media the buzzword that is “random acts of kindness.” It’s one thing to say it. It’s another to live your life in this manner. An ordinary guy who lived an extraordinary life – someone who knew every President from Eisenhower, Kings and Queens around the world – he treated everyone with great respect. From a doorman, the shoe shine guy, the shuttle driver or a head of state, he always treated everyone with respect. Obviously, I’m sharing great and wonderful memories of a man I greatly admire and respect. It was written in Greek mythology, you should never get too close to your heroes, for they will disappoint you. For Mr. Palmer, regardless of the situation or the person, there was a civility and respect for everyone he came in contact with.  How great a person or leader would you be by exemplifying this trait every day from this day forward?

Share a Word of Encouragement. Every day you have a choice with every decision and with every person you come in contact with. And, with that decision comes consequences based upon that decision. You can be a light, an encouragement to someone or you can be a discouragement. As a leader, which one do you think moves your organization, your relationships forward? Everyone looks up to the leader! We take many leadership mantras from the world of sports. Coaches and players alike fire up their team and move them to perform greater as a team than they could as individuals. Your leadership is to inspire your people and your organization to inspire your people.

It’s not about your talent and never was. It’s what you do outside the ropes with people, with your time that will be remembered.

Give of Yourself. Mr. Palmer’s greatest legacy will be the millions of lives he touched on and off the golf course around the world. Two of his many proud accomplishments are the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, family-centered environments dedicated exclusively to the unique healthcare needs of women and children. He’s given the commencement speech many times to the graduates of St. Vincent College emphasizing to bring sincerity, compassion and gentleness to your life. A simple and powerful message!  This inclusive man of the people in a world of exclusive athletes gave of himself to everyone he came in contact with. How effective would your leadership be by giving more of yourself as a way of life for you, for your people and for the organization you lead?

Mr. Palmer was and will always be an ordinary man of the people who casually removed the sword from the stone with humility and grace. If you ever saw Mr. Palmer out in public, he never had a bodyguard, security or even an overtly-assertive PR person in tow. I remember him saying, “If you need a bodyguard, then perhaps you do.” What a message to all of us who think we’re bigger than we are or not the example we should be.

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In the end, all Mr. Palmer wanted as his legacy was to have us remember him for having made a difference in the game. In the end, it starts and ends with your impact on people for a moment or for a lifetime. What difference will you make in your game?

With a hitch in our pants, a wink’n a smile and a thumbs up, we love you and will miss you Mr. Palmer!

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