The Power of Failure in Leadership

remington-typewriter-1423223-1279x1807This will sound almost well…un-North American. But life isn’t about winning. I know that seems funny, but it’s also something we all know deep down. We all know people who seem so content, and uninterested in joining in the rat race around us and competing for life. They just seem to have…life.

And that’s what I’m interested in. Interested in finding life apart from winning.

Because here is the thing, there is always a loser when someone else is a winner. And this makes it sound like I just want to give out participation ribbons to everyone and pretend that everything is equal and everyone should get a trophy. And that’s not it at all.

I believe that there is deep value in working hard, in striving and reaching for the best. I believe pushing yourself matters deeply. But what I also know is that this world is unfair, and there are people who are working hard, striving, and losing because the deck is stacked against them. So what I am saying is that life cannot be tied directly to winning; it needs to be tied to something greater. It needs to be tied of course to Jesus, to pursuing growth.

And here is the crazy thing, for you to grow you need to fail.

I know that sounds pessimistic but it’s true. There is nothing you grow at without some learning and failing along the way. There is nothing you came out of the womb totally competent and excellent at. This is the trouble with tying life to winning. It makes life static and boring because there is no growth.

Joan Chittister puts it this way,

“We need failure to learn that we don’t need to win to justify the reason for our existence. Wining is part of life, yes, but human beings can live healthy, happy lives without it. We are not born to win; we are born to grow, to develop, to become the best of ourselves – and to enjoy life…No life is not about winning. It is about trying, about participating, about striving, about becoming the best we can be, not by the best by someone else’s measure.”

And I just believe that is true. We are not born to win, but to grow. And that’s part about what following Jesus is all about. It’s about being “re-born” to learn to continue to grow in a way that requires failing, faltering steps, and striving for his Kingdom and his best.

So I write this all to say, that if you’ve been failing lately – that might just be okay. Don’t give up because life isn’t about the winning, but the trying.

Failing in Leadership, and Why Its Necessary

1133804_47640439If you listen to truly gifted leaders you will almost always hear some paradoxical: they will talk about their failures. 

They will talk about the tough times, and what they learned deeply. The leaders we most respect and follow when they talk about leadership are more likely to point to their failures than their successes.

And of course there are the arrogant leaders, who talk about how they are God’s amazing gift to the world.

But the truly gifted leaders I respect, have a humility, that comes from failure. 

I say that this is paradoxical because we think of the best leaders as the ones who don’t fail, who press forward, and chart their own path. But I think this is the myth of leadership that we create in our minds. True leaders have failed, and more importantly, have learned from their failure.

The beauty of this is that if you have failed it doesn’t exclude you from being a leader. The question then is what can you learn from your failings and falternigs? What has failing, hurting, or going through that tough time given you to offer the world? Because some of our most profound offerings to the world don’t come out of our success but our struggles.

So if you are leading, struggling, and maybe even failing – be encouraged because you might just be on the path to better leadership as long as you keep learning, and keep pressing forward.