Concerning the recent news about Tiger Woods and the trouble he is having these days, what’s the news that no one is talking about? That Tiger had an affair (or two or ten… or fourteen)? That his wife is considering sending him packing? That his sponsors are dumping him? That we’re all so horribly disappointed that the poster child for (enter your favorite identity politics category here) let us down? No… they all miss the point. The miss the point by a mile.
The big shocker is… that we’re shocked at all.
What makes Tiger different than any one of us? His unimpeachable moral character? His storybook biracial upbringing? His “buy our toothpaste” smile? His killer pecks that any self-respecting guy would die for? No. What makes Tiger different is that he’s an unbelievable golfer. That’s it. He hits the little white ball a freakin’ mile… and arguably more accurately and consistently that anyone ever has in the history of the game.
Now, allow me to assert a theory here that you are free to blast to smithereens (yes, it’s a real word that some of you younguns may need to look up).
To prevent ourselves from having to face our own demons, we ascribe near perfection (and in the case of certain US presidents, perfection itself) to people whom we don’t want to fail us. We categorically refuse to learn the lesson that history has been teaching us for millennia.
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men (with a shout out to Lord Acton for documenting the obvious).
Why did we ever think Tiger was any less capable of abominable behavior that you or me? He was raised with the same kind of defective parents, in the same defective culture, and hung out with the same kind of defective friends as the rest of us. I sometimes wonder who is the more delusional… the ones who get caught, or the rest of us who wonder why they got caught. Folks, we are all capable of the worst we see in others. You, me, all of us. The difference is a) whether we get caught, and b) the consequences once we do get caught.
The Leadership Connection
If my theory is true (and in the case of my own moral condition, it certainly is), then one of the hallmarks of a genuine, trustworthy leader is that they are voluntarily surrounded by enough personal and organizational checks and balances to sink a ship. If not, then run for the hills, ‘cause their house of cards is going to fall down – it’s only a matter of when and where. A trustworthy leader is one who acknowledges the blackness of his own heart, and safeguards himself and his organization (and his family, and himself) against it. It’s someone who tries hard to catch herself doing little things wrong so she won’t wake up one morning reading the headlines about the big one.
It’s someone who sees accountability as an asset not an obstacle; sees criticism as a blessing not a curse; and sees morality as the cornerstone of organizational survival.
What say you? Do you see any examples of a shaky house of leadership cards lately? Any examples of trustworthy leader that surfaces their failures quickly and publicly? I would love to have you comment.—————————————
R. Ian Davis is President / CEO of Davis & Company: Human Capital Strategists, Executive Coach and Leadership Consultant with various leading consultancies such as Lee Hecht Harrison, CLG, and others, Lecturer in matters of Human Capital Strategy with prominent universities including Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and Member of the Linked2Leadership Executive Council. Ian can be reached at email@example.com. Image Sources: reuters.com, wfan.com, golf.com, decoder.drugfree.org