The Right Mistakes

One of the things that will crater leadership more quickly than anything else is the fear of making mistakes.

Mistakes are a normal part of leadership development. If you play defense forever, you'll never win the game. As a leader - especially a young leader, I expect to make mistakes. I just want to make sure the mistakes I'm making are the right mistakes.

The right mistakes are:

1. Mistakes Related to Process, not Character - Picking the wrong direction when the factors are unknown will not disqualify you as a leader. Failing to be a leader people can trust, will.

2. Mistakes Made For the Very First Time - After some time, if you've made the wrong decision over and over and paid the price, it fails to be a "mistake." Blind spot? Maybe. Leadership flaw? Perhaps. Mistake? No.

3. Mistakes You Make With Someone Else - Wise leaders seek counsel. There's no excuse for making a decision - specifically a major decision - without consulting trusted advisers. If collective wisdom leads to a mistake, so be it. Don't let foolishness or arrogance take you down that path.

4. Mistakes That Fail in the Right Direction - There is a way to fail that allows you to continue making progress even if you don't make the kind of progress you had hoped. Think about where you want to end up and make sure failure lands in that direction. It's one thing to overthrow first base; it's another thing to overthrow first base while you're aiming at Left Field.

5. Mistakes that Don't Leverage the Farm - It's one thing to take risks. It's another thing to risk too much. As a leader, the ultimate end of your organization (whatever that organization might be) is usually too important to risk. If you're betting the farm, you had better be going to lose the farm if you don't win the bet anyway.

What am I missing? I only listed five characteristics of the right mistakes. What would you add to my list?


Josh Horton said...

This doesn't really add to your list of "right mistakes," but the idea of owning your mistakes I think is really powerful for a leader. Sometimes that fear of failure can put you in a state of self-deception or maybe in defense mode. Then you convince your self the failure wasn't really as big as you thought. Then the flood gates open to poor habits that can prevent you from making correct adjustments. I know for me personally its not so much making mistakes (i've gotten use to that!!). Its more of how react to mistakes after the fact (of the right or wrong nature)...hey blog about that tomorrow!

Whats with your sick habit of posting at 6 am?