A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Lessons from the Life of the King: Arnold Palmer

On September 25, 2016, Arnold Palmer died at age 87. Golf lost an outstanding champion; America a truly great citizen. He was called “the King”, not only for his 62 wins, including 7 majors, but also what he did for the game, for thousands of ordinary people, and for the community and the country. His life provides a leadership blueprint for all.

He remained, despite all his success, an absolutely authentic person. He was a blue-collar everyman, the son of a golf course superintendent and golf pro, who gave him bedrock values of respect for others and the importance of hard work – values he embraced and honored his entire life (Arnold’s dad also gave him a great grip, the most critical fundamental to the golf swing.) It is interesting that these traits and values are the hallmark of most successful contractors as well. They are humble, real, hardworking, and appreciative.

Palmer had an amazing connection with his fans. They formed Arnie’s Army, and thronged around him at tournaments. They relished his consistent hard-charging style where he would take risks his competitors would not. Risk taking resonates with contractors too; it is the heart of the business. After his playing days ended, he and pal, Joe Gibbs, started the Golf Channel, now part of NBC. His lawyers and advisors told him this deal was too risky, to which he snapped back, “If I hadn’t tried to hit it over some trees or across some ponds on several occasions, we wouldn’t be here talking.” Sound familiar?

Finally, he was a real leader. He invested time and treasure to make a difference, particularly where his impact could provide hope or opportunity. He funded two major community hospitals; he gave $1 Million to the First Tee, a value-building golf program for children; he continuously backed veterans and other causes. He went to the British Open because the power of his name would revive that hallowed tournament. He modeled how leaders give of themselves, like so many contractors do.

His life is a legacy of commitment, competency and caring – words to live by. It is also a study in humility. This man, even with the largest fortune of all golfers, never was too big to shake hands, make eye contact, and sign a legible autograph. People valued Arnold Palmer because he valued them.