Archive for June, 2017

What Tiger Failed to Learn from The King

Please don’t take this post as hitting Tiger while he’s down. That’s not my intent. I’ve been meaning to write these thoughts for a while now, ever since Arnold Palmer passed away in September last year.

Your first thought might be, ‘what leadership lesson can I learn from a professional athlete who plays a solitary sport?’ That’s a valid question. I believe that Arnold Palmer would’ve been a great boss to work for had he been a titan of corporate America rather than golf royalty.

Arnold Palmer possessed the most important leadership characteristic of all – authenticity.

It is said that what endeared Palmer to the throngs of fans was the fact that he didn’t care if you were the President or a busboy at the country club, he treated everyone the same – with great respect and humility. Likewise, he acted the same as well. He came from a humble upbringing, and even though he earned 62 victories on the PGA Tour (5th all time), and was nicknamed, “The King,” he never acted like royalty. In old school terminology, he was a regular guy. He never tried to fake who he was.

In December, Golf Magazine published a special edition in tribute to Palmer. I’ve read the issue, cover to cover, twice. Arnold’s leadership lesson was tucked into the very first article in the issue, and it jumped out at me.

Writer Alan Shipnuck detailed how, in the fall of 1997, he and a number of fellow golf writers were asked to attend a summit arranged by the sports management company, IMG. Palmer and Woods both were represented by the agency, but Palmer put IMG on the map. The meeting was an effort by IMG to portray Woods in a more welcoming light…the agency wanted the best player in golf to be loved as much as the former superstar. But Tiger didn’t get it.

Palmer would shake your hand if you stuck it out while he was walking down the fairway to hit his next shot…Woods would ignore you, like you weren’t even there. Palmer spent thousands of dollars of his own money on postage, every year, autographing memorabilia that fans sent to him and sending it back. Tiger thought autograph seekers were an intrusion. Palmer could often be found in the garage of his modest home in Latrobe, PA. tinkering with a golf club and having a couple of adult beverages with colleagues or neighbors. Tiger lives in a gated community surrounded by high fences that no one can see in to.

Was Arnold right and Tiger wrong? Not necessarily. Arnold was nicknamed The King, but he never acted like royalty. He treated fans and groundskeepers as if he treasured them, and he did. He didn’t seek fame and fortune, but it found him because of how he treated others and because of how he behaved.

Tiger wanted the fame, the fortune and to be adored by the fans, but he never wanted to, and never did, give anything of himself to the fans to earn that admiration. In one of the IMG sessions between Palmer and Woods, the writer, Shipnuck, wrote that Tiger said, “I don’t understand why everyone has to know everything about me.”

We don’t. We just needed to know who he really is.



Posted by on June 29th, 2017 No Comments