Eric Boyd & Anna Alvarez Boyd: FairWays to Leadership®

January 25, 2024 / 5 mins read

FairWays to Leadership® teaches both advanced and novice golfers how to navigate a round of golf using six key leadership traits—curiosity, adaptability, empowerment, integrity, mindfulness, and strategy—at various leadership moments on the golf course. In this Q&A with authors Eric Boyd and Anna Alvarez Boyd, they discuss why golf is important to networking, how to display leadership before and during the game, and how to make golf accessible to people of color, women, and people of lower income backgrounds.

What are unique aspects of golf that make it so conducive to building relationships in the business world?

Golf is an individual sport that is also highly social. While you are challenging yourself to do better, you also have the opportunity to engage with colleagues, clients, or friends. The structure of the game gives you an opportunity to showcase leadership traits like integrity, strategy, and adaptability without preparing for an interview. There is a camaraderie that develops on the course that makes for great team building.

In FairWays to Leadership, you define special playing partners as individuals who have influence over who can access leadership roles. What qualities or attitudes are special playing partners looking for during a round of golf?

Spending four hours with someone in a golf cart is an authentic experience. One of the most important attributes you can demonstrate on the course is integrity. Are you keeping your score accurately? Are you keeping your cool when things don’t go your way? Adaptability is another quality that comes up. How do you adjust when the ball is nestled up against a tree? Do you help your special playing partner find their ball? How you show up and play the game can say a lot about your character.

A round of golf can lead to a display of “leadership moments” as you call them in FairWays to Leadership. Can you give an example of a leadership moment and the qualities of a leader that are displayed?

Stepping up to the tee box is a perfect example of a leadership moment. Every time you step to the tee box you have to make a strategic decision about your shot. And I would say that how you react to that shot is a strategic decision as well. The tee box is also the point where everyone in your foursome comes together. Ensuring that it is a point of community where everyone feels included and respected regardless of the tee position they are playing on that hole is important. Curiosity also plays a role when a player considers course layout and weather conditions before choosing a club and shot to hit.

While golf is a great avenue for networking and developing leadership skills, there are some challenges in the accessibility of golf. Can you describe what those challenges might be?

Golf has historically been an elite sport that was not widely available in communities of color due to racism and sexism. Economics is also a barrier that transcends race and gender to impact anyone who doesn’t have the means to pay for golf equipment and rounds on the course. FairWays to Leadership addresses these barriers by extending a warm invitation to women and students of color while making the program affordable. Addressing these barriers is the key to success for our students who are 70% women and 60% from diverse backgrounds. We’ve had students tell us, “I didn’t think golf was for me. It wasn’t part of my culture.” Our program leans into creating pathways for social mobility.

What do you think can be done to make golf more accessible?

One of the barriers for bringing more people into the game is that golf is an expensive sport and there is a perception that it is an elite game not available to everyone. Investing in affordable public golf courses is important. Most beginner golfers start at public courses that allow them to build skills and confidence. Another avenue for making golf accessible is to invest in programs like ours. We introduce cohorts of students to the game in a safe, inviting environment. The warm invitation is key to long-term success.

How do you create a warm invitation to golf for your students?

One of the most important aspects of extending a warm invitation to students involves creating a safe, supportive environment. The program is designed for students who are new to golf. Students learn alongside others who are at the same skill level, supported by instructors that enjoy the experience of working with new golfers. We involve alumni that know what it feels like not to have prior experience and we celebrate the small wins that build confidence.

What inspired you to write Fairways to Leadership as a guide to help underrepresented groups use golf to display leadership abilities and network with those in leadership?

In June of 2020, we were thinking a lot about social justice, particularly what makes social mobility possible. We both had personal stories about how golf created opportunities and knew dozens of other people with similar experiences. It all started with an invitation to a group of students to learn some basic skills during the darkest days of the pandemic and the racial reckoning. That first group of students inspired us. The rest is history. The book is our attempt to broaden the reach of the program to young professionals and colleges and universities where we don’t have a presence yet.