A Critical Doer “Tip Of The Hat” To James Hahn

A Critical Doer works as hard to develop strength of character as strength of talent


 Despite what you saw on the leader board, golfer James Hahn was the winner of this year’s Masters Tournament on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.  My youngest son, Jake, pointed out this story that went largely unnoticed but it makes me very proud that it captured his attention.

First of all, who the heck is Jams Hahn?  Unless you’re a golf fanatic, this name probably isn’t familiar.  After all, he missed the cut on Friday by 1 stroke and wasn’t part of the mainstream televised coverage.  The story of coming up 1 stroke short however, is truly remarkable and well worthy of a Critical Doer “tip of the hat” as he defined the true meaning of victory.  Take a quick look at this recap of the story from The Bleacher Report and we’ll resume the discussion.

Now that you’re back…this is the true ethical dilemma that defines strength of character…what would you do if you’re convinced no one would ever know?  James Hahn saw movement of the ball as he addressed it for a putt.  No one else saw it…no one…and this is the Masters, the greatest tournament of them all in golf.

Rather than keeping it to himself, he reported the violation to an official and incurred a 1 stroke penalty…the stroke that cost him making the cut at the Masters.  It also cost him prestige and prize money…but what did he gain?

If you’ve read a book by Fred Kiel called Return on Character, you’ll see an eloquent articulation of why ethical decisions, made by ethical leaders with strength of character, win over time.  The short term gains of the morally bankrupt are like a house anchored in a weak foundation.  The house only endures through the calm and is easily swept away when tested by the storm.

One of my first posts on Critical Doer was called Papa’s Story where I wrote about how my father went to great lengths to return 76 cents he was incorrectly given as change for a small purchase.  My father’s strength of character was so strong and unshakable he was willing to sacrifice getting work done that day to do the right thing and ensure his name was clean.  That one episode bought my loyalty to my father as a leader for the rest of his life.  James Hahn’s price was making the cut at the Masters on a much bigger stage than a farm back in North Carolina…but anyone who witnessed this story has a clear understanding of what it really means to win.

Critical Doers, your challenge is to reflect deeply on the values that drive you as a leader.  The impact goes far beyond the bottom line.  As John Maxwell points out, organizations take on the character of the leader over time.  I’d like to think I’m a better man today because of what my papa did to make a 76 cent error right.  I’d like to think many people will make more ethical decisions because James Hahn did what was right even though the result was near term loss.  I don’t think…I know…that if you are taking unethical shortcuts as a leader, your organization is emulating you whether you know it or not.

If this is the case, your house will not endure.  Doing the right things the right way will ensure your house can weather any storm and stand the test of time while unethical organizations eventually find themselves in an unmarked grave of irrelevance.

To James Hahn…tip of the hat to you for demonstrating on the world stage that true victory flows from strength of character.  Your act of courage and strength is exactly what a Critical Doer would…do!


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Updated: April 20, 2015 — 9:06 am

1 Comment

  1. Leadership is a 24/7/365 proposition. You are always leading by example. Your actions are never “off the record” on the leadership stage. Somebody is always watching — even if it is only you!

    Apparently nobody need tell that to James Hahn.

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