The latest online ad from Nike shows a photo of Tiger Woods with the text, “Winning takes care of everything.” The phrase has long been used by Woods, and he recently regained his #1 ranking in golf after suffering through headlines in 2010 about his extramarital affairs.
Woods’ behavior and infidelity were appalling, but our focus here is not on whether his current win streak redeems him. Some will forgive and forget; others will not.
Our point is that the message of “winning takes care of everything” is both wrong and dangerous. It fits in a long strain of similar quotations, including one of the most common sports sayings: “Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing.”
Nike dropped biker Lance Armstrong from its sponsorship lineup after the doping scandal. Armstrong’s wins were dishonorable.
What matters is not only winning but also how you win. If you violate the rules, then you are a cheater.
Winning is not the only thing, and it doesn’t take care of everything. Not by a longshot.
We make the case in Triple Crown Leadership that you should aspire not only to be excellent (indeed, to win) but also ethical and enduring. But if you can’t win ethically, you’re left with a Pyrrhic victory.
Sorry, Tiger, winning does not take care of everything. Nike’s ad disappoints.
Bob and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a 2012 USA Best Business Book Awards finalist.