Room to Fail

You might remember Gen. Stanley McChrystal. He said a few things that got him in trouble, fired even. I know how that feels. McChrystal shared about his leadership experiences in the military, including addressing the possibility of failure in a TED talk [15:38]. Watch if you have the time.

“Leaders can let you fail, and yet not let you be a failure” – Stanley McChrystal

He talks about a very profound moment in his own leadership journey. He had just completed and failed a military exercise. During debriefing, or as McChrystal calls it, “leadership by humiliation,” a commander gives hime some encouragement and it totally changes McChrystal’s perspective of the exercise. “Leaders can let you fail, and yet not let you be a failure.”

I love perfection. There is nothing more beautiful than a plan executed as designed and reaping the expected result. I can recount numerous times that didn’t happen with those serving under my leadership. They failed at times, at least to some degree. I don’t think I ever did a great job of utilizing the potential available in the failure.

In our culture, we are so eager to move up, so ready to step over those that stumble ahead of us, there is no room to fail. I have been crushed under the yoke of failure this past year. How can we make room for failure in our workplaces, families, and communities? Without making room to failure, we set up a culture that is doomed to never succeed at anything. The fear of failure will cost us everything.

I won’t be afraid. Will you?

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