Why Leadership Entails Failing

I think if we want to learn to be leaders, and leadership can be learnt, we have to learn to live with messiness. And I don’t mean just messiness around us, but messiness within us.

Here’s what I mean by that: learning necessitates failing, mistakes, and messiness. 

You can’t become competent at something without trying, and without failing. That’s part of developing competence and ability. You try something, you make mistakes, you grow, you learn and you try again.

And that same principle is true with leadership. We won’t be able to grow as a leader if we are worried about failing, or making a mess. Instead, we should be growing in leadership as the art of learning from our mistakes and our messes.

All leaders fail and flounder. Which means to become a leader we have to learn to be okay with failing.

That almost sounds backwards in the leadership world. In the leadership world the talk is about success, moving forward, and casting vision. And those are all true and good things. The difficulty is that no one can do that perfectly on their first try. It’s something we grow in, and learn through our mistakes.

So all I’m saying is this: if you want to be a leader, you’re going to have to learn to be okay with making mistakes, and decide you are going to learn from your mistakes.

And that also means that if you are going to be raising other leaders around you, you’ll have to be okay with their mistakes too. In all honesty, I think leadership comes down to learning from mistakes, and allowing people to make mistakes.

So my challenge to each of you is this: go out and try to be a leader. Don’t let the worry about making mistakes stop you from trying, because that’s actually a deep part of leadership.

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