Leaders…you are always being watched..sometimes on television

LPGA Golfer Juli Inkster

A sports story from this weekend’s LPGA tournament caught my attention.  And yep, you guessed it, another leadership lesson from the golf course (Phil Mickelson also gave us one of those recently). 

This week’s story however isn’t as positive as our last lesson

LPGA member Juli Inkster was disqualified from the Safeway Classic on Saturday afternoon for a rules violation.   Inkster hit a stall during the tournament and used a small weight with her nine-iron to swing and stretch and stay loose before her play resumed.   However, according to tournament rules, a golfer cannot use a training aid at any time during tournament play. She was disqualified at the end of the round.

You can read the full story here but here’s the spoiler:  a television viewer caught her error and reported it.  That’s how she was disqualified.  An innocent bystander  – not even present at the tourney – brought her indiscretion to light. 

Inkster, obviously, was surprised, and issued a short statement after her disqualification. “I had a 30-minute wait and I needed to loosen up,” she said. “It had no effect on my game whatsoever, but it is what it is. I’m very disappointed.”

So here’s the lesson.    Leaders…you are always being watched and you never know who your audience is.   And that truth carries some important lessons for all of us.

Your span of influence often includes people you may never meet.
Your title of supervisor or manager, etc. automatically places you on “stage.”  Employees across multiple levels of the organization look to you for direction and influence.  That direction may be a policy you speak about, how you handle a Q/A at an employee meeting or simply how you respond when you meet them on an elevator.  Your position creates membership in the group known as “them”.  Your perception to others will always occur on an individual level –whether you meet them or not.

Integrity is a discipline that is continually tested.
Wouldn’t it be nice if integrity was simply a test we completed once a year to renew our certification as leaders?  The reality is we encounter situations each day filled with opportunities for a shortcut to success or a quick fix to a problem.  And those moments can often be defined as gray – not really black or white.  It’s in those moments are integrity is tested the most.

“Tests” often create opportunities for public response.
Like it or not, as a leader, your actions – even those with good intentions – can ultimately become very public.  How we respond when we mess up is really key to our reputation and influence.   Am I willing to admit wrong-doing (whether intentional and unintentional) in such a way that accepts responsibility or do I allow myself to be insulated and place blame elsewhere?

It’s interesting – at least to me – that I’m not a golfer.  In fact, it’s a sport I rarely follow.  But in the last two weeks, the actions of some of the sport’s highest profiles have made the news.  Not for their golf performance but rather how they handled their integrity.

Leadership lessons can occur anywhere.  How often am I the “subject” of someone’s lesson?  Let’s hope it’s a positive one.

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