Some people believe that we become leaders by avoiding mistakes. Leaders are somehow able to predict the future, to see around corners and find our path forward. They become leaders by not making mistakes, and then lead us forward past any potential errors.
I have thought that way myself.
We say that “to err is human.” We also say that “we learn from our mistakes.” Then we go out of our way to distance ourselves from any perceived mistake. Apparently we do not want anyone to think that we might actually be human; we want to make sure that we do not learn anything.
Leaders do not become great by setting a safe course and avoiding errors.
The leaders who inspire me reach to put their core values and vision into practice in innovative ways. They set bold, challenging goals and the people who work with them struggle to meet them. They do not merely replicate what has already been done, they blaze new trails.
Leadership is not repeating the mistakes of the past. Leadership is seeing things in new ways and experimenting with approaches that have not been tried before.
Leadership is inventing new mistakes and applying the lessons they teach us.
Leaders recognize that they do not know whether an action will be effective until they try it. If an act does not accomplish what we expect, it is not a mistake or a failure unless we refuse to learn from it.
There is tremendous value in setting goals beyond our reach and stretching to meet them. We discover hidden depths as we reach beyond our grasp.
We are human, and we do learn.
What do your mistakes tell people about you?
How will you make better mistakes this week than you did last week?
[Image by seier+seier]