“You learn as much from those who have failed as from those who have succeeded.” – Michael Johnson
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
In several of my past messages, I’ve spoken of the importance of failure as a part of the growing experience of leadership. And I truly believe it is important. I also believe it is important to have a culture that supports its team members when failure occurs. To be clear, I am not advocating failure for the sake of failure, nor do I think you should be comfortable with failure as an option. The message has been more around the importance of learning lessons from that failure.
I stumbled across a book about the lessons of failure (“The Wisdom of Failure. How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying the Price” by Laurence Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey) that has an important focus and distinction. In this case, the book focuses on the value of learning the lessons of failure without having to pay the price for those lessons.
Here are the Top 10 Lessons this book teaches:
- Avoid the seduction of Yes – Yes takes on three forms – an inability to decline new opportunities, a refusal to admit failure, and attempting to be all things to all people.
- Don’t pursue new ideas for the sake of pursuing new ideas – Change is good, but it must be the right change
- Effectiveness matters more than efficiency – Doing the right thing vs doing things right
- Don’t be the workplace bully – One of my favorite sarcastic leadership quotes is “the beatings will continue until morale improves”. Never gonna happen!
- But don’t be the pleaser boss either – Don’t have an excessive fear of conflict. Avoid destructive conflict, but embrace conflict that is constructive.
- Competition can destroy your company – Internal, that is. Don’t set up competing factions within a company. Only do so if it is constructive, and focused on the success of the company, not the individual team at the expense of the other
- Don’t be a power hog – Micromanagement and hoarding responsibility are two common characteristics of ineffective leaders. Instead, trust and respect your employees to handle delegated tasks.
- Stay engaged, or get out – Your actions speak louder than words. If you are disengaged, your team will be too.
- Check your ego – A great leader defines success based on his team’s achievements, not his or her own. That should be the #1 learning in my opinion
- Balance is the key ingredient – balance the lessons learned from successes with the lessons learned from failure. Knowing what to do must always be balanced with knowing what not to do
So, know that learning from failure is an important part of becoming a great leader. But also know that the wiser leader learns from others and avoids suffering the failure directly. Better to learn those lessons from others failures than to make them yourself.
Now that’s a lesson (or lessons) worth learning!