How Can You Avoid Being “Bigger Than the Game?”

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tiger woods

The sports headlines are all carrying the same message this week; “The Anniversary of ‘The Scandal’ “.

You don’t have to read the articles to know that they’re talking about Tiger Woods. It’s been a year since his fall from grace; a year since that notorious car accident in front of his house, and the subsequent revelation that golf’s wonder boy had ruined his family, and his reputation, by maintaining adulterous affairs with as many as a dozen or more mistresses.

It took Woods many months before he finally addressed the media about his failings, but when he did a single sentence said it all.

“I thought I was bigger than the game.”

Bigger than the game. How many leaders have we seen come crashing down because they thought they had arrived at the place where they were above the rules?

Think of King Saul. Israel’s first King had it all. Samuel describes him as “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.” (1 Samuel 9:2) As King, Saul had a 30-year run in leadership and achieved great things for Israel.

But eventually he thought he was bigger than the game. He took it upon himself to offer sacrifices; something God permitted only a priest to perform.

Samuel’s rebuke of Saul was as stinging as anything Tiger Woods ever heard.   “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure.” (1 Samuel 13: 13-14)

I don’t know what all of this means for you, but let me suggest three questions that will help you discern if you might be acting like you are bigger than the game:

  • Do you ever allow yourself more latitude than you would extend to your staff?
  • Do you ever rebuke your staff for behaviour you know you’re guilty of yourself?
  • Do you ever expect more of your team than you’re willing to commit to yourself?

Weigh in on this… How do you prevent yourself from behaving like you’re bigger than the “game”?

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. Scott…this is huge. I do think the ultimate test of a leader’s character is not how he conducts himself he’s failed, but how he conducts himself when he succeeds. There’s an entitlement that creeps in that only you, as a leader, can push out.

    We’re a set up-tear down church so virtually every week I help with some aspect of it. I don’t really advance our efficiency (I’m just not that good), but I think of it as symbolic leadership. A leader is never above what he would ask anyone to do.

    An active prayer life helps keep leaders centered. I am accountable to our elders and I really want them to see my heart and call me on my behaviour if its out of line.

    Another mantra I stumbled on years ago is of some help too: never believe your press reports. You’re not as good as supporters might say you are, but the opposite is also true: you’re not as bad as your critics say you are.

    These things have helped me. I love your three questions Scott. Thanks for this.

  2. Great insight! Prevention for me includes a context of accountability. I am blessed to work in an environment of the “360”. I look to those who answer to me, those I answer to, and my peers to see if I’ve been “coloring outside the wrong lines.”

    I am convinced that we do not become bigger than the game overnight. It happens over a series of decision points. My network of accountability helps me in the small decisions.

  3. Carey, I love the line, ‘never believe your press reports’! A leader could go a long way on that simple truth. It’s so tempting to believe the best, and worst, about what people say about us. Either one can mess with us. But believing our positive reviews can certainly lead us down a dangerous path.

  4. Scott, I think you nailed it with the idea of accountability. I’m sitting in a lecture with Gordon MacDonald who just said, “You need to have people in your life who can say to you, ‘This is what I’m seeing in your attitudes that might be cause for concern.'”

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