PonderThis: I Was Not Going to Write About Tiger

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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!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Barry Goldberg
Entelechy Partners
I. Barry Goldberg is managing director of Entelechy Partners, an executive coaching and leadership development firm headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. His practice focuses on senior executives, change leaders and bet-the-business program teams. Goldberg holds a graduate certificate in leadership coaching from Georgetown University.

1 COMMENT

  1. Barry, thanks for a very thoughtful post on a challenging topic.

    It is indeed interesting how people have responded. You’re right, it is a private matter. And few of us can hope to reach Tiger’s level of performance.

    But I feel you stretch your point too far when saying he didn’t cultivate his image of perfection. OK, he does swear, but that just makes him a bit more normal to all of us hackers. But didn’t he sign up for those endorsement deals with Accenture, Nike, Gillette, etc.? You know, the ones that made him 90% of his $billion in earnings. I’m pretty sure he had to OK what the commercials said.

    Bottom line: he gave tacit approval to the image that’s been building the past 10+ years of his pro golfing career.

    Tiger isn’t the first celebrity or company whose image didn’t live up to the reality. I think the lesson here for CEO and CMOs is simply this: What will you do when the reality gets out?

    Because sooner or later, the market will figure out what the real brand is all about. We have the Social Web to thank for that. And when that happens, it won’t be a private matter, even when it is.

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