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PonderThis: Tiger is Returning to Golf… and EVERYONE Has an Opinion

March 19th, 2010 · No Comments · Great Questions, Leadership Lessons from the Links, PonderThis

Almost all leadership models place importance on clear values.  But there is nothing like a controversy to show us how varied our values can be.

Since Tiger announced his return to competitive golf at the Masters, I have heard the following responses:

  • The guy is a scumbag and he will be humiliated.
  • Who cares?  It is a non event.
  • Certainly it will be good for ratings.
  • I wonder if his wife is going to go walk the course and pretend everything is ok.
  • Everybody deserves a second chance.
  • He should not be allowed to play.  Sports figures are role models for our kids and he has set a terrible example.

There is a fine line between personal values, and an emotionally driven judgment about someone else’s behavior.  But a leader who is unable to see that distinction and the possibility for more than one point of view- even at the same time- is destined to see high turnover and be forever disappointed.

I remember my first exposure to both/ and thinking in the 7th grade.  We had a guest teacher in to talk about eastern philosophy.  He was pretty hard to follow, but eventually figured out how to make his key point.  Pointing out the window to the wall along the schoolyard, he asked us what we saw.  Rolling our use as only young teens can we said something like “Duh.  It’s a wall.”  Then he asked us to agree on a single way to describe it.  Although the wall had been whitewashed at the beginning of the school year, severe storms had soiled it with mud- so we eventually settled on describing it as “a dirty wall”.  He explained that a western mind was more likely to see a dirty wall, while an eastern mind would see a white wall with dirt on it.  Clearly it made an impression.

I see this all the time in clients I coach.  Executives who are successful, capable and proven who need to change or deepen certain skill sets to be ready for the next promotion or assignment.  Sometimes, they have been held back for some capacity that is seen as lacking.  Skilled leaders see the wall and the mud and make an investment in cleaning in order to get the most out of the wall.

My take on Tiger?  Well my own value system puts a premium on entelechy- the concept of doing or being that which is the highest and best use of our skills and capabilities.  For Tiger that is clearly golf.  I am pleased to see that the #1 golfer in the world will be playing at the top of the game again.

My value system also encourages me (when I remember or get over myself) not to judge others unless I have walked the proverbial mile in their shoes.  To me, Tiger’s behavior is an issue for him and his wife, and to some extent his sponsors.  As Nikos Kazantzakis’ Zorba said, “It is not up to me to judge.  I am Zorba, not God.”

And as for examples to kids- Tiger will face an avalanche of speculation, sarcastic humor and judgment by choosing to play the Masters.  He does not need the money and could hide out pretty much forever.  He could sell out on his unique and unarguable talent by allowing his bad behavior to direct the course of the rest of his life.  Or, he can show the courage to once again be a public figure, knowing that there will be challenges, and try to do a better job of it.  Seems like a pretty good role model to me, and I am rooting for him.

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