7 Signs You Might be “Bigger Than the Game”

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If you were to ever stop and look at the great leadership and celebrity scandals that have hit in the past few years, you would notice some remarkable similarities.

From the televangelists of the 1980’s getting caught in financial schemes, the politicians getting exposed in blatant, outrageous lies, to sex scandals involving athletes, no arena of leadership has been immune to scandal.

What have they had in common?

  1. None of these people ever set out to commit some outrageous act of folly,

  2. None of these people thought they would get caught,

  3. All of them had their leadership reputations ruined in the process.


But perhaps the most insidious nature of all leadership scandals is that the person at the center of it all never seems to think the rules apply to them.

One of the most famous (or infamous) examples came from Tiger Woods’ profound public statement regarding his own folly, when he openly acknowledged that, at the time of the scandal, he felt that he 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?

The lesson for leaders today is blindingly clear. Leadership over the long-haul requires maintaining a sterling reputation. And the starting place is ensuring that you never, ever, believe that in your leadership role you are somehow “bigger than the game.”

Are you susceptible to “bigger than the game” thinking? Here are 7 questions that are worth considering:

  • Do you ever allow yourself more latitude than you would extend to your team?
  • Do you ever rebuke your team for behavior you know you’re guilty of yourself?
  • Do you ever expect more of your team than you’re willing to commit to yourself?
  • Do you ever rationalize your own questionable behavior on the grounds that, as leader, you are entitled to special privileges?
  • Do you ever excuse minor indiscretions using “just this once” approach?
  • Do you ever demand special perks of leadership?
  • Do you ever marginalize people if you feel they haven’t treated you with proper deference?

Scandals don’t begin the moment something hits the media. It usually starts much sooner.

It starts when a leader believes they are bigger than the game.

How do you prevent yourself from behaving like you’re bigger than the “game”?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow, Olive & Charlie and John, Fiona, Will & Harvey. Lifelong learner.


  1. Hello Scott, it’s always a privilege to read you articles. One of the thing that I’ve learned recently and something I strongly believe is that, as a leader, rather than personally enforcing discipline and rules on everyone, you have to create a culture of discipline, a culture where everybody adhere to and also expect everyone else to follow, even yourself as a leader. I believe this empowers and inspires everybody in the organization.

  2. Dayton, thanks for reading the article and for sharing your insight. I agree that “culture trumps discipline”. Effective leadership accomplishes just what you have suggested; it creates an environment where highly committed teams work in alignment towards a common goal. When this happens, discipline is rarely necessary.

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