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Modest approach: Nice gal finishes first

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Lorena Ochoa is an unlikely “servant leader.” Yet, that’s the role she plays as the top-ranked woman golfer.

Dominating the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour after a series of wins this spring, Ochoa would have every right to start acting like a big-deal golf pro. She doesn’t.

Instead, the 24-year-old Mexican has been spotted serving breakfast to groundskeepers, befriending gallery fans and hugging her partners during pro-am tournaments—all unheard-of behavior. Yet, Ochoa continues to do these things even after overtaking powerhouse Annika Sorenstam.

When one fan underwent cancer treatment, Ochoa sent encouraging e-mails. She’ll typically notice and remember fans in the gallery, even during a tournament. That’s highly unusual, notes Mickey Wright, who won 82 LPGA titles, adding, “She is a breath of fresh air. I hope for her to break every record that there is.”

Plenty of stories illustrate Ochoa’s brand of leadership, but here’s one that shows both her competitiveness and her humanity:

During a pro-am, the professionals who teed off ahead of Ochoa barely spoke to their amateur partners. Ochoa hugged her partners, shook their caddies’ hands and thanked a marshal for volunteering. One of her partners, a jaded businessman, was so taken with her that he wound up offering his private jet to fly her to the U.S. Open and donating $50,000 to her charitable foundation.

Lesson: She’s utterly nice. And she’s No. 1.

—Adapted from “Keeping Faith, Ochoa Takes Magical Tour,” Karen Crouse, The New York Times.

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