What can business learn from the European Ryder Cup team?

Ryder CupWell done Europe and commiserations to the USA who came very close to nailing it. Great golf but what can we learn from it that would be useful in business?

Well the first thing to say is that everybody on both teams were great golfers; that’s a gimme. Each player has enormous talent and ability but more than that they are used to delivering under pressure and in the spotlight. Pretty similar to life in the second decade of the 21st century really: everybody is pretty good. The recession has cleared out most of the poor performers so quality is no longer the edge it used to be.

So what was it that made the European team raise their game and win? I think it came down to 3 things.

The Leader

Jose Maria Olazabal provided truly great leadership: support, discipline, belief all in abundance. After the win he said to his team “All men die, but not all men live. And you have made me feel alive again this week”.

As  Rory McIlroy put it “He has made us cry in the team room this week, some of us have broken down into tears with some of his speeches”. Even after the game was won Olazabal was urging on Francesco Molinari to win his match.

Never underestimate the power of inspired leadership.  

Passion for the Cause

The late Seve Ballesteros became the cause for this European Ryder cup team. Olazabal had partnered him on numerous Ryder Cup teams in the past and had a special bond that went beyond their shared homeland. But Seve was so well liked and respected he became the cause that everybody rallied around.

Olazabal said “Seve will always be present with this team” a sentiment added to by Sergio Garcia who said “We did believe, there’s no doubt that we’ve been inspired by Seve, through our captain.” Again Rory McIlroy summed it up “knowing that Seve’s looking down on us, it’s just been one of the most incredible days that I’ve ever had on the golf course.”

Wanting to win is natural in all sports people but having a shared cause that everyone has a passion for lifted their performance to a different level and one that the Americans were unable to match.

Having a shared passion for a single cause that sits above the obvious prize makes all the difference in the world.


There may have been momentary doubts; there must have been. To be faced with 12 matches and the opposition only has to win 4 of them would seem an impossible task especially when faced by a talented and pumped up USA team but they always hung on to the belief “we can win”.

Justin Rose said after his amazing win over Phil Mickelson “Jose told us to believe and we really wanted to, we really did.”. Belief helps you to pick yourself up when you have fallen and can steer you through the narrowest of gaps to pass the finishing line first. In short, belief promotes persistence – which will surely conquer all that lies before it. 

Following one of Olazabal’s dressing room talks and even though they were 4 points adrift Ian Poulter said “We weren’t four points down. We felt like we were all square. We just knew we had a chance. And do you know this is history right here.”

If you believe in yourself you really can achieve miracles.

So what can we take away from all this?

In business we can’t just rely on being better than the next firm we must look within ourselves and ask these questions: do we really have a cause not just a target and are we all passionate about it? Do we believe in ourselves and those around us and finally do our leaders support, believe and inspire us to achieve the seemingly impossible.

So, with the week in front of us about to unfold how do our organisations match up to the European Ryder Cup Team of 2012?

photo credit: edtechie99 via photopin cc


Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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Posted in Achievement, excellence, Inspiration, Leadership, Targets

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Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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