The Leaders Notebook

Hard questions, ambiguity and opinion for leaders

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PonderThis: I Was Not Going to Write About Tiger

December 17th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Leadership Lessons from the Links, PonderThis

I was going to be the one person in the blogosphere not to weigh in.  But I have had about 5 people in the last 24 hours ask “What do you think about Tiger?”  It is not personal or a desire to know what I think.  These are casual meetings ranging from at a local sandwich shop to the locker room at the gym.  And they are not really questions.  They are generally invitations to collude in derision, judgment and accusation.  So, after having an opportunity to get clear about what I think and feel, I thought I would offer it here.  But I am still not going to write about Tiger.

Instead, I am intrigued and appalled at the public and press response.  What is it we want from him?  To be perfect?  First of all, I view this as an issue for Tiger and his family.  Those are the only people he owes and explanation or anything else to about this.  Perhaps there are conversations with sponsors about their investments.  But as to what is right, what is next, or anything more about the situation, I do not understand why people feel he owes the public anything.  His fame is based on his golf.  The press and public projected a squeaky clean image on him that he did not cultivate.  The guy swears like a sailor for crying out loud.  What is it we need that we expect he owes an explanation.

Second, I wonder how any of us would do walking in his shoes.  Luckily, I am a 50-plus guy with a few extra pounds and do not have women of any stripe throwing themselves at me- much less lingerie models.  I know how I hope I would respond, but until I have been there I do not want to cast stones.  The guy has an unbelievable work ethic, a level of talent a grade higher than anyone in his field, treats his body like a temple in terms of diet and exercise: all things I aspire to.  And I know what my score is in those cases.  So I am not going to hold forth about morality, fidelity or flaws of character.  I am in no position to judge.  Are you?  Are you certain how you would respond to money, influence, fame at that level?

So- what does this have to do with leadership?  A key capacity of leaders is to think for themselves and not join the public riot because it is the public riot.  Organizational leaders are often the ones to recognize a mob forming and break ranks.  And the best leaders know the importance of asking what is behind their strongly held opinions.  The answers can be rich soil for a new capacity to avoid being swept with the crowd.

I am taking a blogging break through the new year and will be pondering this for a while.  I am amazed at the public response to what is essentially a private matter.  We want out role models to be inhuman- just like we want our leaders to be ideal.  But leaders of organizations, like famous athletes are human.  Why are we so disappointed when they prove it by showing that they have the proverbial “feet of clay”

Happy holidays!

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Sam Hummelstein


  • Gail Cousins

    As has so often been true. Most notably imho in regard to Bill Clinton and other politicians. When there has been no betrayal of anyone but one’s own family, it’s nobody’s business but theirs. As someone wise once said, “small minds talk about people; great minds talk about ideas.”

  • David Rance

    Whilst I agree with much of the sentiment, it is a fact that leaders in business, politics, religion and sport are role models, especially for the young and impressionable. Therefore they should be much more aware of this responsibility, especially sports stars who are easily raised to hero status. The corollary is that we should be more forgiving of their transgressions. As for the press, they trade on bad news because we endorse it. They and we love nothing more than seeing someone highly successful come crashing down. We certainly do get the press (and government) that we deserve.