More on Failure

While listening to a lecture this morning (the only good thing about online classes is that I can do them in my pajamas), I experienced what is quickly becoming a common occurrence in grad school — the feeling of two separate thoughts joining in my mind and sparking a new revelation. In my first class (and in previous posts) I learned a lot about failure as a leader. Its a natural part of leadership, an expected part of leadership.

I’ve also been learning about self-leadership. In class, we read an article that stated 50% of a leader’s time should be spent on self-leadership. I argued against the basic principle of the article in class, though I don’t think I changed anyone’s mind. But because the majority of my classmates were in favor of the article, the idea of self-leadership has been mulling around in my mind as something that I should explore more.

Enter today’s lecture and my revelation. My professor was discussing how often leaders can get blind spots in their own abilities. Especially with the current trend of millennials not giving their leaders respect simply because of a job title or longevity, its all the more important that leaders are open and proactive in soliciting feedback on their weaknesses. Not only does this bring the opportunity for inner growth but it enhances output for the organization and can lead to greater teamwork and empowerment for team members who have complementary strengths for the leader’s weaknesses.

This process of being open about failures and shortcomings and then attempting personal growth and team growth out of that, my professor commented, is an essential part of self leadership. I love that! Admitting failures and shortcomings is an essential part of self leadership. So often leaders attempt to hide their failures. Maybe they’re insecure. Maybe they’re afraid. Maybe they have blind spots and truly can’t see their weaknesses. Maybe the idea of correction is too much to bear. Or the term “failure” has been so built up that they equate it to their personal worth.

Failure can never be “who you are.” It is simply something that comes with the territory of being human. And while we learn from our mistakes, feel guilty for accidentally hurting others, and certainly strive to be the best leaders, friends, family members, and human beings we can be, there is something profound about realizing that failure is a part of leadership, and managing short comings is an essential element of self-leadership. To deny either of these is to choose to be in denial, unhealthy, and ineffective.

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