Why Leaders Should Embrace Mistakes

I’m the son of a perfectionist and consider myself a recovering perfectionist. It goes against most of my instincts to risk making a mistake. But I’m learning that good leaders should not only make mistakes but they should encourage others to make mistakes more often. If leaders do not embrace mistakes they limit learning and avoid greatness.

By embracing mistakes leaders can model learning and growing from our mistakes. When we chastise mistakes members of the organization don’t learn from their mistakes, they learn to avoid them or cover them up. This can be a huge missed opportunity. By celebrating our own mistakes we can create a vibrant learning environment where risk taking and learning are valued. Would you rather be a part of a safe organization or a vibrant organization aiming for greatness? The thing about aiming for greatness is that if you fall short, you still land somewhere pretty good. If you aim for nothing, you will hit it. If you learn about how you fell short, you’re path to greatness will be more clear the next time you try.

Last week I had the opportunity to be in Indianapolis with the convention planning team for ACPA 2014. At about 16 months away from the convention, this was our opportunity to brainstorm and really innovate. To help get our brains rolling, the leadership asked Tony Doody from Rutgers to do a 2 hour presentation on how to innovate our convention planning. Tony inspired us, challenged us, shared a whole bunch of new ideas, and nudged our own innovative ideas. If you ever have a chance to see Tony Doody and Patrick Love present on Unconventional Leadership, I highly recommend it.

Tony showed two great videos that inspired me. The first illustrates that mistakes and failures are key to greatness.

The second illustrated just how scary the potential for failure can be but how liberating it can feel to step forward anyway.

Finally, Brené Brown shares

For years, I drew courage from the question, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I even own the paperweight. When I was getting ready to speak at TED this year, I pushed that question out of my head to make room for a new question: “What’s worth doing even if you fail?”

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