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.

Learning to Eat Frogs

1059950_13941892I don’t know where I heard this analogy but I often think of it. And by often I mean all the time. I actually have a list called “Frogs to Eat” on the top of my monthly goals. And that heading will make sense in a moment.

But here is the idea. Leadership is like eating frogs.

There are things each of us has to do to be an effective leader that we might not want to do. And this changes for each person in each role. The point is that leadership entails doing things that we might rather not do. For example we might need to make a tough phone call, to do that admin we’ve been procrastinating on, to take that leap whatever. We all have things we need to do that we don’t want to do, that’s eating frogs.

Frogs are the weekly tasks that for whatever reason seem annoying, distasteful, or unwanted – but are needed to be done. And that’s key.

So here is how it works: Each week you have a certain number of frogs you need to eat to move forward. If you don’t the next week, the number of frogs you have to eat just multiply, and the frogs grow bigger as well. Time never makes a hard decision easier. Each time you delay doing that thing you need to do, the number and size of the frogs grow.

So leadership is learning to eat the frogs before they grow and multiply too much. That’s the idea.

Each month then I line up and think through what are the frogs I need to eat. Things I’d rather not do, but that are crucial to do; things I’d rather delay than decide on. Then I try to eat those frogs. It’s not the fun part of leadership, but it a crucial part of it.

So here is my question for you today: what frog do you need to eat?

My List of Failures…

I hate to fail. I hate the feeling, I hate when it happens. But even more than that, I hate when I don’t learn from my failures.

A mentor of mine taught me to keep a success list. This is where you write down significant accomplishments. Not big, but significant. This helps you when you hit a low week. Those weeks where you wonder what you’re doing in life, and if your life has had any meaning. You can look back over your list and realize that God is working through you. It’s almost a reminder of God’s activity in your life. And this is a good thing.

But I’ve started up something less positive – My list of Failures. This may seem odd, and perhaps it is. But I hate making mistakes and hate even more repeating them. So I write down key mistakes, and what I’ve learned from them so I never do it again. And yes I could title my list more positively like “My List of Learnings”. But for me I know I fail, and I will fail. The title may not be happy but it keeps me humble and healthy.

So want to know some things off my list? Here are a few mistakes I’ve learned from. Don’t email, when a phone call is better and more easily understood. Don’t think someone else will do it. Don’t be embarrassed to ask to pray for someone.

Want to know my newest one?

On Sunday I didn’t feel like I did a good job preaching. Inside I felt a bit off, unsure, and flustered. I let that affect me and my responses. I failed a bit there. So here’s my newest one: Don’t let your job or duties ever stop you from simply pausing, breathing, and praying for God to be present. That probably would have made the difference.

But I’m not going to let to make the same mistake twice.

But what about you. What will you not let happen twice?

What mistakes have you learned from?…