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Mastering Club Leadership - The Forty Rules and Six Immutable Laws of Private Club Leadership

Search AmericaBy Harvey Weiner & Mark Weiner
Partners of Search America®
PUBLISHED IN The Club Leadership E-Newsletter

To be a leader, not simply a supervisor, requires that you have followers. Those responsible for effectively driving their private club toward a strategic vision often fail to truly grasp this fundamental concept:
Leadership is the art of helping your people to want to do what it is that you want them to do. Considering that the all-in cost of senior club management turnover is easily well into the six figures and changing department heads can be almost as costly isn’t it time the private club industry focused on some basic rules for effective leadership, if for no other reason than to reduce costly turnover? Isn’t time we all did something about it beyond simply talking it to death? In our four decades of best practices consulting to private club boards and management, the number one reason we have found for people in the club industry leaving their job is the feeling of insecurity that derives from the frequent turnover of the club’s leadership. Employees - and this includes management - too often either lack a sense of club direction, don’t comprehend, have a sense of ownership in, or value the Board’s vision. Sometimes they just don’t get it because it’s never been properly explained or they had no part in developing the vision. Those who follow respected leaders seldom change jobs once they know their responsibilities, are trained accordingly, have reciprocal respect, are recognized and appropriately rewarded. In other words, they feel secure.

A principle of human nature is our need to feel appreciated. We may not easily reveal it, but praise, recognition and encouragement often bring out our best.

When our self-interest is satisfied in our work we ratify our sense of self. The entirety of our life experience is woven into the fabric of that sense. Everything we either do or want reflects essentially who we really are. Therefore, by understanding the employee’s own frame of reference we gain insight into what makes that individual tick, which leads us to discovering the key to getting him/her to keep on ticking. This may seem superficially manipulative but in fact this reaching-out to the employee’s own self-interest tunes in to how s/he sees things, how the individual’s perception of a situation informs their response. The effective leader continually asks: what does s/he need, want and seem willing to put in the extra effort to accomplish?

Appealing to an employee’s self-interest makes her a stakeholder in the outcome. If she understands what’s in it for her she is more likely to be highly productive. Appealing to a person’s self-interest is a far more productive management approach than threats or monetary reward.


  1. Restate the 3 R’s: Respect self, Respect others, accept Responsibility for your own actions
  2. Reward performance more than is expected and do so cheerfully and appreciatively
  3. Acknowledge when you’ve made an error, accept responsibility, and take immediate steps to correct it
  4. Hire slowly but with conviction. Fire quickly but with empathy
  5. Use pre employment tests not as a screener but as a window into what drives that person
  6. Use psychological tests as a guide to effectively manage that person
  7. Understand that we all have different motivators
  8. When you apologize look the person in the eye and say it sincerely
  9. Smile when talking on the phone. The other person can hear it
  10. When you lose, be sure you’ve learned a lesson
  11. Remember that great achievements often require great risk
  12. Trust your gut; it’s taken years of experience to develop it
  13. Laugh at yourself but never laugh at the mistakes of others
  14. Think fast but put your mind in gear before speaking
  15. Don’t allow small disagreements to fester. And don’t bring them up in a later dispute
  16. Create a harmonious team
  17. First learn all the rules, then you may break a few
  18. When asked a personal question inquire: “Why do you want to know?”
  19. Find people you trust. Do business with them and grow old together
  20. Spend some time alone, just thinking
  21. Open your mind to change but don’t feel compelled to compromise core values
  22. Control your tongue. Silence is often the most effective form of communication
  23. Trust in God but lock the bag room, walk-in boxes and liquor storage anyway
  24. Achieve immortality by sharing your knowledge
  25. Mind your own business
  26. Take care of the environment. There’s no replacement
  27. Value your success by what you had to forego in order to achieve it
  28. If you become wealthy help those less fortunate.
  29. If you’re still struggling financially, help those even less fortunate
  30. Remember that not getting what you want may be best
  31. Call a sick employee to let them know they’re missed
  32. Attend the funeral of an employee’s loved one
  33. Enter the club through the front door; leave through the back door. Tomorrow, reverse the order
  34. Grant subordinates more authority than they expected, and do it with confidence
  35. Hire everyone on three month probation
  36. Run your business and your life ethically setting the right example both on and off property
  37. Personally conduct group new-employee-orientation-tours for all, throughout the club
  38. Train, retrain and cross-train
  39. Continually test procedures and policies against both the club’s mission and what is right
  40. Do no less unto yourself than you would do unto others

Clubs are, after all, a people-to-people business; each a unique community of families. Fear, intimidation and resentment are counter-productive. Most normal human beings will work best for a respected president and manager. If we both respect and like our boss imagine what we’ll produce. Can the employee talk to you and know that you’re actively listening? Are you available and present? Does she have good reason to trust you? Do you help her come up with solutions, thereby building self-reliance, or do you “have all the answers”?

SIX IMMUTABLE Laws of CLUB Management Conduct

  1. Respect your people. Always greet them in a friendly way even when you don’t feel particularly friendly.
  2. Address employees by name. It’s demeaning to be referred to as “hey you” or “uh, waitress”. Sometimes, the only way an employee knows you distinguish him from any one else is by your use of his name.
  3. Remain accessible and available to your people. Listen to them. Learn of their interests and hobbies. Refer to those interests when chatting to show they mean more to you than just another timecard.
  4. Recognize accomplishment. It soothes like a warm bath on a cold day. Commend others when appropriate. Oliver Wendell Holmes was known to say, when praised, “I’m a little hard of hearing. Would you mind repeating that a little louder?”
  5. Remember your place. You are not a Member of the club... you manage it.
  6. Be a good-detector not just a faultfinder.

Don’t you feel most secure when being judged by your successes rather than by your deficiencies? Poor leaders manage by exception, speaking to their employees only when something is wrong. Effective leaders generate loyal followers.

© Search America 2012

Harvey and Mark Weiner, two generations of thought leadership in private club management search & consulting, are principals in Search America®, Trusted Advisors Since 1974. 800-977-1784

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