Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


Exploration of leadership behaviors of PGA professionals in the golf industry

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Chris Willis (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Irina Stakhanova (Other)

Third Advisor

Donald Farr (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Kristina LaVenia (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Judith May (Committee Member)


More than 24,000 members of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) of America play important roles as business leaders in the golf industry. These PGA professionals occupy key managerial positions at private and public golf clubs, which are the core of the golf industry. However, because scholars have not considered them to be leaders we lack leadership studies about their role in the industry. To fill this gap, this study used Kouzes and Posner (2007) five leadership behaviors – modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, encouraging the heart – to explore PGA professionals’ leadership engagements at golf clubs.

To examine whether there were differences in the five leadership behaviors between different types of golf clubs (private versus public golf clubs) and different types of job positions (i.e., general manager, director of golf, head golf professional, and assistant golf professional), a Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) was performed. Demographic characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, educational level, age, and employment status were controlled as covariates because these factors influenced the five leadership behaviors (Kouzes & Posner 1987, 2007; Posner & Kouzes, 1993; Posner, 2014, 2015). 144 PGA professionals from 19 out of 41 PGA sections in the United States participated in the survey. The study’s results showed that between the different types of golf clubs there was no difference in engaging the five leadership behaviors, even though organizational characteristics would differ in the two contexts (Brymer & Johanson, 2011). I assumed that the high level of homogeneity of PGA professionals was the source for this lack of difference. The majority of PGA professionals are Caucasian Males, and for the most part they follow the same educational path in their careers. In previous leadership studies, these factors (i.e., ethnicity, gender, and educational background) had an influence on differences in the five leadership behaviors (Kouzes & Posner, 1988; Posner, 2014, 2015). On the other hand, there were significant differences in engaging the five leadership behaviors across different job positions. Specifically, PGA directors of golf more frequently engaged in modeling the way than PGA assistant golf professionals. I assumed that age and work experience caused this difference. Older professionals were more engaged in leadership behaviors due to a legacy belief that motivated them to serve as good role models for the next generation (Zacher, Rosing, & Frese, 2011). Typically, PGA directors of golf are older and possess more work experience than PGA assistant golf professionals.

In conclusion, in their organizations PGA professionals frequently engage in the five leadership behaviors. They are the industrial leaders. However, to be more effective leaders that can build a strong relationship with subordinates and make a difference with them, PGA professionals should keep practicing leadership behaviors because leadership is a thing we can practice. Practice takes time, but anyone can be more effective leader. Leaders are made not born!