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The Annika Effect: What do you want to accomplish this year?

by Jennifer Shelby

The capacity to lead is an extraordinary skill. Good leaders learn to first recognize and then manage change. They inspire others with their passion, creativity and the willingness to listen.

Last month, a woman played in a Men’s Pro Golf Tournament. For those of you who don’t follow the golfing world outside of Tiger Woods, this was not only controversial, it drew new attention to the differences between men and women in sport, and why a woman would find it even remotely appropriate to play in a man’s tournament. What effect would this have on a traditionally male dominated sport and what’s wrong with playing in your own sandbox?

A quick education on Women’s Golf: Annika Sorenstam is the ‘Tiger Woods’ of Women’s Golf. She is young, talented, and wins just about every tournament she plays. So why would she pursue something so unorthodox? Is it Ego, money, attention, or desire to push beyond the traditional limits?

I bring this novel feat to your attention because it is not about men vs. women, or can/should a woman play in a men’s tournament. It is all about leadership and the value learned from her experience. As a coach, the question of the day is:

What is the impact for Annika by playing at the Colonial Golf Tournament and how will this transform her course? Here’s how it plays out for me.

The Top of the Mountain

Imagine truly being at the top of your game, regularly being ‘in the zone’, and you have nothing but blue sky in front of you. You then stop to contemplate and ask what more can I learn, where can I grow, is their more to my game, and what would happen if I were able to stretch just that little bit more? Am I really at the top of my “own mountain”?

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How many of us are willing to risk everything we’ve known--- in Annika’s case her status as the top woman golfer in the world, confidence, the role or position she has earned in the golfing community, and her sense of self. She knowingly subjected herself to intense media scrutiny that questioned her motives, and was the target of other golfers who didn’t appreciate her presence. Can you imagine what she must have been feeling as she teed off that first day?


My assessment of her choice to play at the Colonial is that she could have continued as the dominating woman’s on the LPGA Tour. Instead, she chose to ask ‘am I capable of more? By expanding her universe, exposing her game for what it is and what it is not requires courage, moxy, and ambition. She took off the safety belt and dove in.

Annika is a role model for all of us and has shown us the value of strength—and not allowing fear to put artificial limitations on how we traditionally think. It’s about performance. To the women golfers and other athletes, she has shown them that they too are capable of more, can raise their game and become more competitive. Take yourself back to a time when you were on top of the world, and you had a moment to think about how you got there. Now ask yourself if you are there today. If not consider these questions:

Applying Leadership and Growth

Requesting more of ourselves vs. resting on our laurels can have a huge impact on our companies and our personal lives. What we may find around the corner is a renewed appreciation for ourselves/organizations and new skills that allow us to raise our standards to increase our performance and amplify our contribution. When we are willing to risk what we already are, we create new opportunities. The very definition of ‘evolution’ and ‘entrepreneur’ starts with challenging individual responsibility, creativity and risk.

Making the Stretch

What are the qualities you most admire in elite athletes and leaders and how do these qualities apply to you? Some examples are:

They exemplify what we value most. Where in your life are you willing to find out what’s next, and what is possible?

Qualities of a Leader….

As I stated earlier, this is not a battle between the sexes. It is about examining our own abilities, and as leaders asking more of ourselves while being open to growth—wherever it comes from-- breaking down traditional barriers and pushing through to a new level.

How the story ends….

So how did Annika do? At the conclusion of day 1 at the Colonial, she was at par, and on the second day struggled and did not make the final cut. Since the Colonial, she has won her last two tournaments. Quoting her after last weekend’s playoff win: “At the Colonial it was the journey to winning. Maybe with all that pressure I experienced then, that’s what helped me to pull through today.”

Based on these results, do you think she is better off today for taking the risk? I think she demonstrates living your best life. I wish her great success, whatever that ends up being.

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