Leaders Teach Their Mistakes
The value of learning from mistakes and failures cannot be overstated. Creating long-term excellence requires that we view our failures as learning opportunities for personal development. Leaders with this mindset own their missteps and derive a lesson they can carry forward. The popular idea of “failing forward” emphasizes this critical insight.
Leaders who value the lessons that mistakes and failures offer have an opportunity to use them to make others better. The best leaders don’t just learn from their mistakes, they teach them. By broadcasting their mistakes, leaders allow others to learn from them. This is about more than openly admitting to a failure or misstep. When leaders acknowledge what went wrong and what they have learned from it, others learn vicariously not to repeat the same mistake.
This sounds painfully obvious, but most leaders don’t feel comfortable sharing these lessons because they falsely believe it makes them look weak or less competent. The opening and timing to share mistakes and lessons can also be awkward. The best leaders push through these constraints and learn to actively teach their failures.
Sharing lessons months and years later can be helpful, but never as powerful as teaching mistakes in the present when the facts and consequences are fresh. Regular team discussion topics such as “Lessons Learned” give everyone, including leaders, a chance to explore key takeaways from mistakes. By engaging in these discussions, leaders don’t rob others of the experience and insights they have absorbed from recent failures. Teaching from mistakes makes everyone better.
Founder of Non-Violent Communication, Marshall Rosenburg, often asked audiences "Which game are you playing: Who's Right? or Making Life Wonderful?" I've observed that I've spent a lifetime becoming expert at playing "Who's Right?". When the rules and objectives of that game are occupying my consciousness, I'm very hesitant to admit a failure much less "Teach My Mistakes". I'm curious what others see as blockades to their own "Admission of Mistakes" and "Teaching from them".
Admitting mistakes can be humbling but a humble leader will gain the trust and admiration of their team! Thanks for the reminder today.