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.

My Son the “Soccer Star”

I want to share something that’s kind-of-personal. I don’t think my son Hudson will ever be a soccer star like I hope. I mean maybe a miracle might happen, but it just doesn’t seem to be in Hudson. And here is why: he’s too compassionate.

Hudson doesn’t have that competitive edge that leads to real greatness in sport. Hudson is more likely to be found on the soccer field giving the ball to the opposing team (“here you have it – let’s share”), singing songs of encouragement while running around the players (“Go blue lighting!”), or upset that the team isn’t sharing back with the ball (“But daddy sharing is good!”).

So all of this leads me to believe that a future of soccer stardom may not be in his future.

But is this a bad thing? He might not have competiveness, but he has compassion. He might not have intensity, but he has generosity. He might not have that sports edge, but he loves to encourage.

All I mean by all of this is that kids are different, and each are shaped in a unique way. The point is to find ways for their uniqueness and special gifts to shine forth. For some that’s in competitive sports, and intense playing. For Hudson it’s not so much, at least right now.

But what Hudson is good at is coaching. Because that’s what he is doing right now.  He is teaching our second child Asher to play soccer. He is encouraging him, sharing with him, and playing great with him.

So he might not be a soccer star, but he might be a star coach. The point is we all have unique gifts; let’s not lament what’s not there, but encourage what is.

And on the plus side Asher has a competitive streak. He just tackled Hudson and took the ball, so who knows we still might have a soccer star in the family 🙂

 

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?