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Lisa Larson
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Lisa Larson

Lisa Larson is the Founder and President of Larson & Partners, LLC. When she is not helping companies optimize the business results delivered from their IT projects, she can be found watching football.

'Tigerpology:' Be more like Lance

In the aftermath of Tigerpology, many have compared Woods' self-flagelation to other famous/infamous apologies, including Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Mark Sanford, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Phelps.

True, there are some similarities here: Power and money hang in the balance, and the central issue is the character of the person (in these cases, all men) who transgressed. But there is a critical difference between what we might call formal leaders -- political leaders, corporate executives and coaches elected or hired to do the job of leading -- and popular individual leaders, of whom there are many in sports. Individual sports leaders do something better than most but they generally do it by themselves, and the sport is their job.

Chosen leaders must maintain the trust of those who chose them. If their character is in question and they lose that trust, it is reasonable to expect they will be removed from their leadership positions. Individual sports leaders, on the other hand, lead their competitors in a chosen sport. The only trust required is that they attained their ranking within the rules of the sport and didn't cheat.

Winning is a powerful marketing and sales tool, and our perception of these sports leaders is shaped by the products they represent and the PR image presented when they do charitable work. It is as if society demands that winners have a certain character, even though what is required to be the best at a sport is talent. It calls to mind the famous quote from former NBA star Charles Barkley, "I am not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on a basketball court. Parents should be role models."

Michael Phelps is the best Olympic swimmer ever -- and there is an implied self discipline and character that goes along with being able to achieve that title. The photo that surfaced of him smoking a bong didn't do a thing to change his achievements in the sport, but it caused his marketing sponsors to drop him because they did not want to tarnish the image of their product. And it caused Michael Phelps to have to issue a public apology - for what exactly? What is it that Michael Phelps owes us?

Lance Armstrong is a good case study in individual sports leadership. He is one of the greatest athletes of all time as well as a survivor of very aggressive cancer. He leverages his ordeal and his cycling achievements to both inspire others and raise money to cure cancer. His message is to be inspired by what he has accomplished - not who he is personally. Yes, he has had his share of tabloid ink but he's no longer married and none of his behavior has detracted from what he holds himself up to be: a cancer survivor, a dad, a seven-time Tour De France winner, a marathon runner, and a tireless soldier in the fight against cancer.

Perhaps Tiger can learn from Lance's example. Instead of talking about the rules of marriage and society, he should talk about the rules of golf. Instead of trying to create an image of "Tiger the Man" he should honestly tell us that it is all about Tiger the Golfer. If he has a charitable cause that inspires him, he should deflect as much attention as possible to those efforts. Tiger shouldn't need to ask us to believe in HIM - his results speak for themselves. If he wants to lead us to believe in anything, it should be that he will return to golf as the best, and that he will use his wealth to make the world a better place.

By Lisa Larson

 |  February 23, 2010; 1:26 PM ET
Category:  Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Yeah, maybe if Tiger were more like Lance, he would've made sure the incident was never reported. Come to think of it, to be like Lance he'll have to perpetuate the lie, smear those who tell the truth about him, and maybe even have a hand in destroying businesses for those who tell the truth about him.
http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/02/news/lemonds-lawyer-hoped-to-bring-lance-armstrong-into-trek-dispute_103883
Yes, what the world needs are more athletes creating broken homes for their spawn.
No surprise the Washington Post would encourage one cheat to take note from another cheat.
Not surprising coming from the paper who endorsed John Edwards.
Read "From Lance to Landis" by David Walsh chief sports writer for the London Sunday Times and if you affirm Tiger should emulate Armstrong, then you have some pretty low ethical standards.
Stick to watching football.

Posted by: betsy1966 | February 25, 2010 9:03 AM
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Tiger was perceived to be the non-white athlete wealthy men might comfortably socialize with at the country club.
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. . . and now they'll follow him around to pick off the leftovers.

Posted by: UncomfortableTruths | February 25, 2010 4:37 AM
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If he had told all he was a sex addict from day one, he would have gotten few endorsements
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On day one he was single and probably would have gotten MORE endorsements. Get Real!

Posted by: UncomfortableTruths | February 25, 2010 4:34 AM
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Tiger's problems are public and will remain so because he marketed himself in a certain, ultrarespectable way, to get endorsements and money which ultimately came from customers. If he had told all he was a sex addict from day one, he would have gotten few endorsements. Thus we are entitled to follow Tiger's travails and disregard the marching clones from his web site who prowl noticeboards saying "Leave Tiger alone!!"

As for Lance Armstrong, Tiger tried that one. Deny, deny, never admit a thing, even when they have your samples frozen and they're dirty as all gone. Deny some more and even defend wanted fugitive Floyd Landis.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | February 24, 2010 4:47 PM
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Tiger's problems are public and will remain so because he marketed himself in a certain, ultrarespectable way, to get endorsements and money which ultimately came from customers. If he had told all he was a sex addict from day one, he would have gotten few endorsements. Thus we are entitled to follow Tiger's travails and disregard the marching clones from his web site who prowl noticeboards saying "Leave Tiger alone!!"

As for Lance Armstrong, Tiger tried that one. Deny, deny, never admit a thing, even when they have your samples frozen and they're dirty as all gone. Deny some more and even defend wanted fugitive Floyd Landis.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | February 24, 2010 4:46 PM
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Unlike Charles Barkley and most other athletes, most of Tiger Wood's reported $1 billion or so lifetime earnings did come from his having been perceived to be a role model. Even people who had no more interest in golf than they had in curling were lured by the image that Tiger projected: smart, articulate, charming, well-educated, self-disciplined, and respectable. It was this image, not just his impressive skills on the golf course, that made him a highly sought-after and extremely well compensated salesman of expensive products. Tiger was perceived to be the non-white athlete wealthy men might comfortably socialize with at the country club.

While Tiger can probably regain his position at the top of tournaments' leader boards, it will be much more difficult for him to regain his reputation for respectability.

Posted by: Cassopolis | February 24, 2010 2:53 PM
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Do you really care what Woods does, thinks, feels? This celebrity worship is embarrassing.

Get a life folks, there is a world of joy out there. You might consider living it yourself rather than through some famous person. These celebrities are no more interesting or stimulating than my neighbor Joe who refurbishes old Jaguar cars. GET A LIFE PEOPLE and stop treating Woods or any other spoiled celeb like a god. You all sound like putz'

Posted by: ewsnyder | February 24, 2010 11:39 AM
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Lance Armstrong? That's rich. The French anti-doping agency would love to have a word with him. So would his former best friend and teammate Frankie Andreu. And since when did business owners become moral compasses? Who's next? Lloyd Blankfein?

Posted by: wturecki | February 24, 2010 10:43 AM
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He should create a label called "Hey 19" that focuses on his pursuit of the majors win total to beat Jack, and to remind him not to pursue those "Hey 19" young ladies that Steely Dan sang about. When he returns to golf, I hope that he is able to do just that.

Posted by: bkhoward1 | February 24, 2010 10:22 AM
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Why are reporters and columnists still trying to get their 15 minutes of 'fame' off of the Tiger Woods story? IT'S OVER!!!! LEAVE HIM ALONE!!!

Posted by: momof20yo | February 24, 2010 7:20 AM
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I agree with the article and would like to see more posted regards the fact that the athlets do not owe us anything other than to play at there best.

I feel it is Tigers right to have privacy,what so called right do we have to pry into his relations.I believe that is between him and his wife. If it leads to a divirce so be it.
I wish him and M Phelps also only the best in there sport and in life all they have done is show we as Americans place to much value on being the perfect person. or should I say the big business puts to much on there image just to make many more millions.
I enjoyed when Michael got subway to take him on,I love to see Armstrong win anything and I look forward to seeing Tiger with another green jacket with or without his current wife.

Posted by: s288 | February 24, 2010 7:09 AM
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Excellent. I don't care about Tiger's problems off the golf course. He made a social mistake, and its between him and his wife. If every person who cheated on their spouse confessed it would fill all the papers, and TV in the world.
Lets leave him and his family alone.

Posted by: jimgarvey2009 | February 24, 2010 12:16 AM
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Michael Phelps did the public a service by smoking his bong, thus proving that the greatest athlete can smoke marijuana and remain a huge success. He proved once again that the anti-weed propaganda is full of falsehood.

Tiger's actions only effected the people immediately in the picture. If he was a 'moral' crusader who advocated laws to take away everyone else's rights, and then became a serial cheater, that would be a whole other story. Tiger does not compare to lowlife's like Craig, Vitter, Ensign, Sanford, Gingrich, Giuliani, Haggard, and dozens more. Nor does he compare to the Christian supremacists who were part of unspeakable scandals with children, such as James Dobson, and countless priests.

Tiger should only apologize to the people in his life.

Posted by: revbookburn | February 23, 2010 6:52 PM
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The media is not watch for every thing we do. Privacy is ruled out for those who have connection. I am not spreaking out behalf of elite or poor. It is obvious who cares for the poor. The rich do not need money and all they need are sleuths to did the dirt. Tiger is one of them caught in this web. He is not our moral GURU. Proscuity cannot hidden for long, one SLIP you are our- no three strikes. The media enjoys doing this for what the reason.

Same guy is elated in exposing. my question is who guards these people. I am sure among the thousands, my wild guess is around 15%. This is out of statistics and personal interviews. I have great respect for Toger and his accmplishments. With mentioning names, great personalities have been scritinised, at the end forgiven. Is this nation ready for to accept for what heis - HUMAN being with withe same falacy as all of us.

Let us gorget and move forward, his golf was not biult wirh SSS. lat us bee sane and not an ugly american

Posted by: jayrkay | February 23, 2010 4:22 PM
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Thank you, Lisa Larson and Charles Barkley. PARENTS should be the role models of the behavior they want from their children, NOT athletes paid to PLAY A GAME. Tiger did nothing worse than any other man, well-known or not -- he messed around with other women while married. The only difference between him and my own father is that he is in the public eye and is famous. Let him save his apologies and repentence for his own wife and family, and let him be the "role model" for his own children. Now let's MOVE ON; there are MANY other things more newsworthy and worth paying attention to than Tiger Woods' infidelity.

Posted by: QByrd | February 23, 2010 4:14 PM
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Thank you, Lisa Larson and Charles Barkley. PARENTS should model the behavior that they want kids to emulate, not athletes paid to PLAY A GAME. Tiger did nothing worse than any other man, well-known or not, has done -- he messed around with other women while he is married. The only difference between him and my own father is that he's famous and in the public eye. Let him save his apologies and repentence for his wife and family, his being a "role model" for his own kids, and let's MOVE ON.

Posted by: QByrd | February 23, 2010 4:09 PM
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And, of course, Letterman gets a total "Get out of Jail Free" despite have sex with employees (Who might face discharge or difficulties if they refuse?).

Posted by: lufrank1 | February 23, 2010 3:45 PM
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I like this. For God's sake, he's only a particularly good golfer

Posted by: wgmadden | February 23, 2010 3:40 PM
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