No Image Available

Colin Graves

Iridium Consulting


Read more about Colin Graves

Blog: Was Europe’s Ryder Cup win the result of emotional intelligence?


Europe’s remarkable comeback from 10-6 down to take the Ryder Cup was not only an incredible sporting achievement, I believe it also illustrated how a great leader made an emotional connection with his team and fueled them with a desire to win.

As I was listening to the interviews after the famous win it struck me how European captain Jose-Maria Olazabal had successfully inspired his team to change what seemed inevitable and achieve victory, which until Sunday evening, given Europe’s slow start, must have seemed like a distant dream for some players. 
Did he do this by invoking the spirit of his great friend, the late Seve Ballesteros? Speaking to the Telegraph, Olazabal said: “Seve will always be present with this team, he was a big factor for this event and last night when we had that meeting the boys understood that believing was the most important thing.” 
It was remarkable how the team turned the game around. Martin Kaymer was certainly inspired, shelving his poor performance when it mattered to hole a six-footer on the 18th green to beat Steve Stricker.
How did Olazabal draw such tenacity from his players at the final hour? Like many great leaders, Olazabal was able to use emotion in a powerful and controlled way to get his players to buy in to his vision and play their hearts out for him.
Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence, has often drawn links between what he termed ‘emotional intelligence’ and organisational success.
In his book  Goleman defines emotional intelligence as “the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships”. 
Goleman also highlights that there a number competencies that can be linked to teams and individuals with emotional intelligence. Olazabal and subsequently his team members certainly displayed a selection of these traits over the past few days:
  • Self awareness: In order to achieve victory on the green Olazabal and his team had to accept the weakened position and show awareness of what was going wrong before relying on their intuition and pooling their resources to achieve success.
  • Emotional awareness: In order to make such a remarkable comeback it was essential that Olazabal and his team recognised the effects of their own emotions and those of fellow team members.
  • Self-Management and emotional self control: In order to turn back the tide of failure, Olazabal and his team manage their internal states, impulses, and kept disruptive emotions and impulses in check.
  • Positive outlook and effective coaching: As a leader it was also Olazabal’s responsibility to sense the team member’s needs in order to bolster their abilities. It was also essential for Olazabal to generate a positive outlook among the players and consistently inspire them to meet their goals.
If you love golf, or any sport for that matter, the drama on Sunday night would have been incredible to watch. As is usually the case, the top sportsmen and sportswomen employ the same tactics and skills that top business people do to get to the top.
Olazabal’s leadership ability was tested this weekend, and, thankfully, his ability to connect with his players on an emotional level helped him beat the odds and snatch victory in one of the most entertaining and few hours of golf many of us have ever seen.
Colin Graves is director of executive coaching provider, Iridium Consulting.

We welcome any and all contributions from the community, so please feel free to share your views and opinions with us, your colleagues and peers via our blogs section.

No Image Available
Colin Graves


Read more from Colin Graves

Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.