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Leading Through Failure

Alan Andersen

You are a leader in your life, home, work, and community because you can effect change. How you lead through failure and the risk of failure determines the power of your impact.

I am sitting at my computer in my Marshawn Lynch jersey just a few hours before the Seahawks opening game. I watched the NFL opener a few days ago and was subjected to multiple replays of the last play of last year’s Super Bowl. The Seahawks and the 12’s have suffered.

Of the many stories following that painful failure, one stands out. It is a story of leadership. Russell Wilson organized an offseason trip into the heart of a Maui jungle and told the team, “I brought you guys out here, away from everybody. I want to have a heart-to-heart.” He knew it was essential to move through the profound tension of things that needed to be asked and to be said, and feelings that needed to be expressed. Sorting-it-through would make the difference in ever being able to function as a strong, focused team again. Ricardo Lockette (the intended receiver of that ill-fated pass) reported that there were tears from the team as they let it all out and eventually “threw all that over the cliff.”

Leadership skills: Live to fight another day.

#1 – Process the failure. As a leader you must neutralize the sting of failure by seeing it as an opportunity to learn. Failure stinks. But you must avoid the temptation to label yourself, your family, your colleagues, or your community as “losers.” Take the time to do a post mortem to feel what you feel and thoroughly explore what went wrong. Without intentional time spent discovering what you can learn, you are stuck in the ignorance that led to the failure, while the strength that led you to make the effort is eroding.

#2 – Take risk. We all appear to have different set points when it comes to risk aversion, and financial planners are quick to remind us that we all need to know how much risk we can “handle.” But clinging to assumptions about our willingness to take risk can affect our ability to make powerful differences in our world.

What do you want to change in your life? In the world?

What are you doing about it?

How are you doing, when you fail and when you face risk?

I am tempted to avoid failure and lay blame when it happens. Sometimes I feel like everyone’s pawn and forget that I am ultimately in charge of what I do with my life. Giving others control over my life can feel like avoiding failure, when in reality I am often simply afraid of the risks of taking responsibility. What do I miss? The same things you miss when you play small.

What would you do if you envisioned success?

What is getting in the way?

What failures of your past do you need to process so that you can move ahead?

What risks are you willing to take when you look at the possibility of success?

What did it take to get to the last two Super Bowls?

How many risks will you take to do what truly matters to you?

Go Hawks!

- Mary Beth King

This article also appeared in Blue City Monthly

 

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