Editor’s notebook: Evolution of a leader

Marc jordan followed a leader in many managerial positions. Superintendent. General manager. President of local, state and national associations.

For 14 years, the word “leader” has been stamped on his business card. Jordan is the Natural Resources Leader at Westfield Country Club in Westfield Center, Ohio, an insurance company-owned 36 hole facility 43 miles south of Cleveland and 25 miles west of Akron. How many job titles include the word leader? In 27 years of writing stories for publications, I had never interviewed someone with a leader in their job title before spending a bucolic fall afternoon with Jordan in Westfield.

Outside of his home, Jordan is known as the 85th President of the GCSAA. He is the ninth Ohio-based superintendent to hold the title. Buckeye State, for the record, also helped produce eight U.S. presidents and five football coaches who guided teams to national titles in the college football playoff and championship bowling eras. Why Ohio’s emerging leaders are a topic for historians, sociologists, and psychologists. What matters to current and future golf course superintendents are the lessons Jordan offers as he spends his entire career in the state.

Some of Jordan’s zest for leadership comes from one of his predecessors Westfield and GCSAA. Jean Spodnik, coincidentally, was also president of the GCSAA while leading the turf team at Westfield. Spodnik retired in 1993, leaving an indelible impression on Jordan, one of his deputy superintendents. “I think John’s waterings really helped spin the wheels in my mind of what leadership was like,” Jordan said.

With the help of Spodnik, Jordan sought a place on the Northern Ohio GCSA board of directors in 1994, the same year he became superintendent of the South Course at Westfield. After Spodnik’s retirement, Westfield operated under a two-superintendent system with separate teams and management practices. A year later, Jordan achieved Certified Golf Course Superintendent status. His leadership skills developed when Westfield hired Mark Farrell as general manager. Farrell, now general manager of the Danville Country Club in Danville, Ky., Advised Jordan on how to put the textbook leadership topics into practice. Westfield transitioned to a one-superintendent system and Farrell appointed Jordan as general manager, a prominent position he held for almost seven years until he assumed his current position.

As his role at Westfield evolved, Jordan became president of the Northern Ohio GCSA, the oldest association of superintendents in the country. He then joined the board of directors of the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation and became president of the statewide organization.

Lots of roles to juggle. Lots of leadership lessons along the way.

“When I joined the OTF Board of Directors it was a different experience for me and helped me understand that you are now a leader of leaders which is a whole different wax ball because that everyone at this level is successful and they have their own mindsets, thoughts and opinions, ”says Jordan. “Some are very good at asking for opinions and listening, others are very opinionated and don’t listen. Coming here to Westfield and serving on the OTF board of directors, I learned how to handle these situations. I’ve learned that you can’t just react to how you feel. You have to ask yourself questions to understand where someone comes from.

Mature as a leader at Westfield and within the industry for Jordan, who joined the GCSAA board of directors in 2014, means delegation of duties and diversion of praise. His Westfield team has about 40 employees in peak season, including a veteran turf management executive staff consisting of the Superintendent Kyle smith and deputy superintendents Todd underwood, Bill thomas and Drawn reed. The quintet has nearly a century of combined service at the club and the stability allows Jordan to balance his duties of leading the day-to-day maintenance of two golf courses, both of which have recently undergone major renovations, with management. a national association of over 18,000 members.

“Early in my career I did things so that maybe I could get a pat on the back, but for me, maturing as a leader is letting your team do it,” Jordan said. . “Let them receive accolades because it’s a great motivator for them and people will associate success with your leadership. They won’t say, ‘Hey, you’re a great leader.’ But they’ll say, “The course is in great shape, you’re doing a phenomenal job”, and so on. Allow your team to take the spotlight, because the work is done through them.

Sitting in the dining room of a clubhouse occupied by leaders from insurance and other industries, I ask Jordan how leadership is about being a modern golf course superintendent. .

“I think the work is leadership, ”he says. “Sometimes we focus on running our operations, not leading them. For me, I had an awareness during my tenure as CEO, where I understood the differences between being a manager and being a leader and taking the forefront and having a vision and strategy by daily report.

Vision and strategy are certainly different concepts from aerification and irrigation.

“You have to have this ability as a leader to go out and anticipate,” adds Jordan. “Anticipate adverse situations on the golf course or anticipate opportunities to put your team in the spotlight. As an industry, we have great leaders. But I still think sometimes we have a lot of good managers. That’s what separates the good guys from the big guys, frankly, those who have the ability in their establishment to develop a strategy with club leadership and link it to the club’s future plans.

“If your club doesn’t have a master plan, ask the question, ‘What’s our five-year plan? What do we look like? You start to beat that way. Some people are afraid to do it and will say, “I am not going to get involved in club politics.” But if you want to give direction to yourself and your team, then this is the way to do it. I know every situation is different and sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Becoming president of the GCSAA requires enormous personal sacrifice, and Jordan’s phone rings several times during our conversation. But with decades of board presence and attending meetings and events, comes the professional advantage of interacting with leaders from all segments of the industry. Jordan says he’s inspired by GCSAA CEO Rhett evans and enjoys being in the same room with other directors of GCSAA and as opportunities arise with leaders of other allied associations.

Jordan’s term as GCSAA President ends in February. His term on the board ends in early 2023. The quest to become a more effective leader, however, never ends, especially when the word is on your business card.

Guy Cipriano is the editor-in-chief of Golf Course Industry.

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