The epic saga of Tiger Woods’ fall from being touted as a model citizen and athletic superstar to a reckless, self-centered, out-of-control sex addict serves as a leadership lesson for all of us. The following are important principles we need to take seriously for ourselves and those we are leading:
I. Leaders need to build their lives upon the solid foundation of good character and morals, not on gifts and abilities. You can master the art of making money but miss it in the arena of developing moral standards. This will eventually drag you down. Character serves as the wind beneath our wings carrying us into a successful future. Abilities will give us immediate recognition and possibly fame but will only last a brief period of time.
II. Leaders must understand that having great career success does not cause us to experience or feel internal significance and satisfaction. Numerous are the celebrities who overdose on drugs or commit suicide. If we are not internally healthy human “beings” then we will not experience health as a human “doer.”
III. Leaders need to develop good coping skills so they can courageously confront reality instead of escaping from it. All leaders experience incredible relational, financial and strategic stress. While we are trying to serve other people we enter into various crises and often neglect ourselves and our families in the process. When crisis or stress comes we need to learn to cope by getting alone with God and receiving His grace in the midst of the battle. If we are too weak to do this, then we need a leadership community that will hold us accountable so we learn how to cope correctly in each situation instead of reacting with our emotions or running away to “fantasy land” to alleviate our stress.
IV. Leaders must not feed an ego-driven lifestyle. Often, powerful people have huge egos and need to constantly feel powerful. When they are not in the spotlight they need to capture the attention of someone new who will cater to their need for adoration, sometimes because they continually do not get this from their spouse and family. This will drive a person away from their spouse and into the arms of a paramour who will give them pseudo-love that is not weighed down by the usual marital responsibilities and stress. Ego-driven leaders often desire a fantasy-filled relationship in which everything is light, superficial and based on sex, fun and entertainment. Having affairs makes them feel constantly adored and significant.
V. Leaders need to understand that love doesn’t come easy. It takes continual time, focus and energy to make a marriage and family healthy. When you are married you have to deal with the daily tensions of raising children, finances, schedules, intimacy and other issues too numerous to cite here. If a leader is inundated with work and vocational responsibilities often they will not have the emotional energy needed to keep their marriage and family afloat. To be successful in life leaders need to make sure they don’t continually deplete their emotional reserves with their work, thus leaving nothing but the crumbs that fall off the table for their spouse and children.Also, we need to spend at least the same amount of money we invested into our wedding day for counseling, vacations, private dinners and resources to secure a healthy marriage for the rest of our lives.
VI. Leaders must understand that money, material possessions and a beautiful spouse cannot fill the vast empty space of an unhealthy emotional soul. Marriage, money and material things don’t complete or change a needy individual: they just accentuate and magnify the undealt with issues of the soul. The more money I have, the more I will spend it to feed my dysfunction. The more material things I have, the more I will use them to placate myself and my family instead of using my time to deepen my relationship with them so it is authentic and not role-playing.
When lonely and insecure people get married their marriages don’t do away with these issues but actually make them worse because an essentially lonely person will feel more alienated when the emotional connection between them and their spouse isn’t always present.
Also, instead of investing all our energy in the accumulation of money and material things, we need to invest time getting to know ourselves and our God so that we can be conformed to His image and be a blessing to our family and those we serve.
VII. Leaders need to understand the underlining motivation behind what drives them. In Tiger Woods’ case it may have been the enormous pressure placed upon him by his father, who prioritized his performance on the golf course since he was only 3 years old. This can instill in a child the concept of being accepted by others based on performance instead of developing loving, trusting relationships based on friendship and unconditional love and sacrifice. These “father issues” need to be dealt with in order to have a healthy, balanced emotional life.
VIII. Leaders often equate performance with acceptance. Biblically speaking, Jesus was accepted by the Father before He entered into the ministry and performed one miracle (read Luke 3:21-22). This prepared Jesus emotionally for the rigors of ministry and the 40 days of satanic temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-2). When a person isn’t happy with themselves within themselves, then they will attempt to feel good about their life by performing to feel the affirmation and approval of others. Because this is a black hole that sucks a person deeper and deeper into an abyss, the craving for that short fix of attention becomes an addiction in the same way a person becomes a substance abuser. Soon, that attention-craving person will compromise their life, family and standards in order to satisfy the deep yearning of their soul to feel loved and approved. We need to make sure we are getting our primary emotional and spiritual affirmation from God as our Father before we venture out into the world to transform it. If these areas are undealt with, then the world will transform us into its image and likeness before we see transformation in the world.