On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Columbia University students
Leadership students

Columbia University students

The graduate students contributing here are members of "Leadership Development" at course at Teacher's College, Columbia University, taught by On Leadership panelist Todd Henshaw.

Heeding the call of oversized egos

Q: As the de facto leader of Golf Inc., how did Tiger Wood perform at Monday's pre-Master's press conference? What did he need to accomplish to resuscitate his brand? What lessons could other embattled leaders, such as the Pope and GOP chairman Michael Steele, draw from Tiger's handling of the press?

As I watched Tiger Woods at his pre-Masters conference, I was pleasantly surprised by his visible display of humility and humanity. And if it was disingenuous then he could very well give up golf for a second career in acting. My disdain for his actions quickly turned into compassion for a man, seemingly unscripted, finally showing his "true face." In his words, "hitting bottom" may have actually saved his life. He admittedly was quite miserable living a deplorable life filled with lies.

The lesson for Steele and the pope? It is natural to put up defensive mechanisms when we feel we are being attacked and accused, rightfully or wrongfully. And sometimes we are so busy defending or concealing ourselves, as was the case for Woods, that we don't stop to heal ourselves. Healing starts with admitting the wrongdoing. It starts with listening to what others are saying and considering the impact of our actions on them. Remorse and humility are also perquisites for recovery, whether it is recovery from a personal fall like Woods' or the much-needed recovery for the Catholic Church. And the great news is that humanity's capacity to forgive is amazing.

Woods seems to be on the road to recovery and even if he never regains the respect of all, he would have hopefully regained his self-respect. In the meantime, the Pope and Steele may want to consider getting off their high horses and really listen to what their detractors have to say. Ultimately they may want to listen to their heart instead of their oversized egos.-- Taren Cowan

One small start

During Monday's press conference, Tiger Woods went back to basics: he mentioned the morals that were central to his upbringing, rehashed his love for the game of golf, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to compete in the tournament, and -- most importantly -- acknowledged that to again be master of the sport, he first must regain mastery of himself. Accountability, passion, self-awareness: all key ingredients of effective leadership, and traits that have been strangely absent in other public figures as of late. Well done, Mr. Woods.

But we're not convinced yet. Tiger's words seem sincere, but at this point, they're still just words, and we've yet to see his behavior reflect them. For such a beloved public figure to overcome such startling transgressions, Tiger's conduct will need to be absolutely impeccable, both on and off the course.

It's a high standard to reach for. Done right, this press conference will be regarded as a turning point in Tiger's career: a humbling tale of his personal crucible, a prophetic new beginning. But if he falls short of the public's towering expectations, the conference will be regarded as nothing more than a great exercise in public relations that failed to live up to its promise.

We've heard what he has to say. Now, let's see what he does.-- Kate Davis

Woods, irons and Steele

Of the three of them, Tiger Woods is the least morally bound to explain himself to us. Fans may be offended by his behavior, but just because he has projected an image of sports prowess all these years doesn't mean he owes us an explanation. In fact, golf fans' joys aside, the only thing less important to the well being of our nation than the game of golf might be Woods' affairs. Frankly, I would like to have heard Tiger say, "My sex life is my and my wife's business alone. The only comment the press will get from me is about my performance on the links."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Pope Benedict. He is head of a Church that professes -- and is believed by many -- to be the divine instrument of God on Earth. Benedict allowed his personal preacher to compare attacks on him for being lax about pedophiles under his control to the kind of treatment that Jews suffered at the hands of The Church itself. That preacher was defending the indefensible with the ludicrous.

I would like to have heard Benedict say, "Even The Vicar of Christ needs His grace. I am sorry for any part I played personally in not protecting children from bad intentioned priests. The Church will change and this will never happen again."

In the middle we have Michael Steele. At least we've come to expect hypocrisy from our politicians. It seems clear to me that Steele is really only interested in what can further the wealth and power of Michael Steele. -- Peter DiCaprio

A leader without power

Tiger Woods performed well at his pre-Master's press conference. He showed humility, humility and respect for his fans. Whether he is putting on a show or not, it's hard not to feel for him. Why should his private life have anything to do with what he gets paid to do? He gets paid to play golf. He is a leader in golf. He is great at golf. The media has made his extramarital affairs a bigger issue than they should be, and he shouldn't have to put on this show to appease the public eye.

The issues facing the pope and Chairman Michael Steele are completely different. Tiger Woods might have acted selfishly but he didn't know he would be hurting the public or his followers in any way. Is what he did wrong? Maybe. Does Tiger Woods have the direct or indirect power to make decisions that impact countries and millions of people? No.

On the flip side, the pope and Steele do have that power. The Pope and Chairman Steele are tied to numerous scandals, which do include hurting individuals, be it sexually or financially. Harboring those who molest innocent children is a crime. Using money intended for political purposes to fund a trip to a bondage club is wrong. The pope and Steele should act with the same sentiment Tiger did on Monday and try to seek forgiveness. The difference is that Tiger should be commended for dealing with the public the way he has and exonerated for his actions. The Pope and Chairman Steele should not. -- Michael Ellenbogen

By Columbia University students

 |  April 6, 2010; 1:38 PM ET
Category:  Wrong-Doing Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Easier said than done | Next: Transcript: How video games build leaders


Please report offensive comments below.

Good thoughts, I think its very clear that we have given Tiger, Michael Steele, (and perhaps the Pope, but this is beyond my frame and has a lot of historical reasoing)such power, adulation, and authority, that they believe their judgement is beyond question, and they are to absorbed in the bigger picture that revolves around themselves.

Hate to do this to my friends in Morningside Heights, but this reminds me of when I was trying to make a decision about which Grad School to attend. I remember the accepted student day at Columbia was filled with tours of the various campus buildings where they would take use to the roof (this was up at the med campus in Washington Heights), and tell everyone to take a look to south and stare down at Midtown Manhattan. The grad students leading the tours kept on emphasizing that we were in NYC. I like New York, but I felt as if Columbia was trying to sell itself and its appeal based on the tall buildings in Manhattan and their image of power, and as someone who wanted to (and is currently) working on more immediate social issues that are grassroots oriented, this kind of turned me off. I wanted an education to better understand people, not to have a flashy name on my resume.

Like Tiger Woods, or standing on a tall building in New York, its easy and beautiful to look up and look at the huge world around you. But it is also very difficult to look down and to see the street and understand the basic, daily lives that allow you to have this larger view.

Posted by: jro1 | April 7, 2010 9:58 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Please shut up about "Tiger!"

Posted by: terrybakee1 | April 6, 2010 4:03 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company