McGinley tells business leaders to look to sport for winning strategies

‘Homework is more important than psychology’ when leading people

Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, also a founder of Clubs to Hire, at EY World Entrepreneur of the Year awards buildup

Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, also a founder of Clubs to Hire, at EY World Entrepreneur of the Year awards buildup


Entrepreneurs and business directors can learn a lot about leadership, talent management and developing winning strategies from sport, Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has said.

Addressing business leaders and founders at an event associated with the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year awards, he said there was a huge correlation between what a business leader does and what a Ryder Cup captain does.

Speaking to The Irish Times he said: “You find out what you’re dealing with and play to your strengths.”

He said golf, like business, also needs to track results, examine metrics and have goals. “They deal in pounds, shillings and pence, and we deal in points.”

Also speaking on Monte Carlo, to business leaders and EY Entrepreneur of the Year country winners, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said self-assurance and having a strong personality were crucial to successful leadership.

“You have to have a strong personality when you’re leading people. And I’ve got a pretty strong personality. I never doubted myself. Even in the dark days when I first joined Manchester United, I knew that what I was doing was completely right.”

He said he made a point of never criticising his players publicly and stressed the importance of praise and saying “well done”.

Winning strategy

Part of his winning strategy, he said, involved recognising the efforts of everyone in the organisation from the laundry staff to the star players, and learning from mistakes but not dwelling on them.

McGinley, who spent five years studying business both in Ireland and the US, and was one of the founding investors of Irish company Clubs to Hire, believes his business experience will prove to be an asset for the challenges as Ryder Cup captain.

He says the importance of building a good team is extremely important, be it in business or the Ryder Cup.

“When Alex Ferguson or Mickey Harte were on the sidelines, they could see everything. There was just one game. In the Ryder Cup, there are four different games – and 12 on the final day. That’s why the role of building a good team with good vice-captains is vital. I only get a snapshot of the game, so the vice-captains feed information back to me.”


McGinley believes homework is more important than psychology when it comes to leading people.

“You need to do your research on the individual players. You’ve got to know your staff. The more homework you’ve done the better the decision. A lot of conflict boils down to communication.”

Mike McKerr, managing partner of EY Ireland said the importance of people engagement and good leadership cannot be overstated: “The American golfers are ranked far higher on the world rankings. They are seen as better players. Yet we keep winning the Ryder Cup.”

McKerr, who represented Ireland in hockey as a teenager, said he learned through sport how important it is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each person on the team, something which he applies in business.

“Team success should come before individual success . . . When I took over, we didn’t have a clear direction. People worked hard but they weren’t engaged. It was looked at as a job and not a career. They probably thought they’d work at EY for a few years and then go elsewhere.