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Paul McGinley – Leading a Multinational Team of Individuals

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The case

Who – the protagonist

Paul McGinley is a professional golfer and captained Team Europe to the 2014 Ryder Cup – one of golf’s most prestigious prizes.


The biennial men’s team-based competition was first established in 1927, and was contested between the United States and Great Britain.

The Great Britain team first evolved into Great Britain and Ireland, and then the whole of Europe in 1979, at a time when the US dominated the event. But Europe has since won ten Ryder Cups to America’s eight.

Each team – consisting of 12 players – takes its turn to host the tournament, which is played over three days using the matchplay format. The next edition takes place in September 2018 at Le Golf National in France.


Paul, chosen by the players committee to lead Europe at Gleneagles, Scotland in 2014, was tasked with moulding a host of nationalities, cultures and personalities into a united, and ultimately winning, team.

Paul boasted great credentials, holing the winning putt for Europe in the 2002 Ryder Cup, winning a further two trophies as a player in 2004 and 2006, and serving as a vice captain during another two triumphs in 2010 and 2012.

In addition, Paul captained Great Britain and Ireland to the Vivendi Seve Trophy v Continental Europe in 2009 and 2011.

The role as a Ryder Cup captain, however, is like no other in golf. 


Paul was officially unveiled as captain in January 2013, with the 12-month qualification process for European players starting on 26 August 2013 and concluding on 31 August 2014. The Irishman then announced his three wildcard picks on 2 September 2014.

The 40th edition of the Ryder Cup commenced on 26 September, finishing on 28 September.


The event was held at Gleneagles, located approximately 40 miles north of Glasgow, in Perthshire.

Key quote

“I had to choose people who I could trust, communicate with, give me good feedback and help evolve my plan.” – Paul McGinley, Team Europe 2014 Ryder Cup Captain.

What next?

What did it take for Paul to achieve victory? How did he mould world-class individual players into a successful team? Find out from the man himself.

The protagonist


Paul McGinley

Paul McGinley talks about his Ryder Cup captaincy and incorporating the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson into his backroom team.

A natural leader

Paul explained: “After my two captaincy stints at the Vivendi Seve Trophy, where we won on both occasions and were heavy underdogs, I started to believe that I had a natural instinct to captain and lead. My experiences in Ryder Cups, and analysis of Europe’s past successes, gave me a very strong base to work from. I relished the role and felt very comfortable in the huge challenges that it presented.”

Adapting to the situation

Paul continued: “Captaining is very circumstantial. A lot of pairings were based on, what I call, the examination paper i.e. playing at home on the Gleneagles golf course. A change in either of those dynamics would, of course, change my whole approach as captain.”

Trusty lieutenants

He added: “The choice of vice captains was very much about me rather than the players.

“I had to choose people who I could trust, communicate with, give me good feedback and help evolve my plan. My feeling was that the players had enough help and were very individual both in nature and as golfers. The role of vice captains would not have a huge impact on how they were going to play that week.

“I was also aware that five vice captains was a large back room team, but this meant their communication with the players was at a minimum and their communication with me was at a maximum.”

Inspiration from Sir Alex Ferguson

Paul & SirAlex

He stated: “Sir Alex Ferguson was an important addition to my team of people, who I used as sounding boards.

“I utilised Sir Alex in a very specific way, to help guide me on some challenges that I may not have experienced myself first hand. For example, having played three Ryder Cups, I was always a No. 6 to No.12 player on the team, generally playing three to five matches, so I had empathy and understanding with those players on the team.

“Sir Alex was able to provide insight on his experience on managing the very best players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, which helped in my management of our superstars such as Rory McIlroy.”

Recognising the case method 

Paul concluded: “I spent five years at university, where I obtained a Diploma in Marketing and a degree in International business, so I am familiar with case studies and their importance.

“When London Business School approached me, I was honoured to be able to help their students by doing this case study on our success at Gleneagles.” 

The author


Randall Peterson

Randall discusses what it’s like to work with Paul and how sport and business can learn from one another.

In command

Randall commented: “Having such a strong protagonist makes writing the case difficult because the best cases have some tension in them – as the protagonist heads towards apparent disaster for example. But Paul was always in command throughout. The challenge was to motivate when you look like a winner already (hence the engagement with Sir Alex Ferguson).”


Leaving nothing to chance

He continued: “Paul’s attention to detail is legendary with anyone who knows him. We were even warned about that before we worked with him. So it was not surprising to witness, although nonetheless impressive!”

The appeal of variety

He added: “The variety of nations is exactly what drew me to the case.

“As business, sport, and the world in general are becoming more and more international, it is of the utmost importance to know how to lead a multi-national team. Paul is an excellent role model for that – showing how to draw out the team spirit, like the sense of belonging to one team, but at the same time not making everyone feel like they have to conform to every aspect of the side, and still having individual identity.” 

Sport and Business

Learning from business

Randall concluded: “I would not say that sports people are the perfect protagonists for leadership cases, but business does have much to learn from sport in terms of the psychology of sustaining high performance. However, sports also have much to learn from the world of business about how to develop leadership and management of the business of sport.

“In other words, professional sports organisations do an amazing job at identifying and managing sporting talent, but really have little history at identifying and developing managerial talent. Sports teams have become big businesses in their own right, but all too often operate as ‘mom and pop’ businesses.” 

About the author

Randall Peterson is Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, UK.

e rpeterson@london.edu
Tw @DrRSPeterson

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Paul McGinley – Leading a Multinational Team of Individuals
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