A Bit of a Rant about Failure & Leadership

“Leadership is serious meddling in the lives of others.” _Max DePree, Leadership Jazz


The motivational speakers and leadership experts tell us that the great leaders are those who are not afraid to fail and fail often.  They encourage us to keep failing forward and to keep learning from those failures until we finally succeed. 

I get it.

None of us are omniscient.

There will be failures if we try to achieve anything. I’ve made my fair share.

But no matter how well intentioned that advice is, what must not be forgotten is that every failure and lesson learned comes with a cost and the cost is often paid mostly by others. 

All those trial and error failures where you were figuring things out…

All those three steps forward and then two steps back…

All those “We’ll just back up and punt” regroupings…

All those back to the drawing board sessions…

All those relaunches and rebranding…

All those “Oops, sorry about that!”…

They cost people. 

They disrupt their lives.

They rob them of their peace and replace it with stress.

That money down the drain was their money.

Those people who will not come back were their friends and family.

The truth that must not be forgotten is that with every failure something is lost, damaged, and disrupted and if the stakes are high enough even lives are lost or scarred forever.

So fail as often as is required but please make sure that the losses and sufferings of those affected will be worth the success you are pursuing—for them, not you.  (That’s what leadership is about…those you’re leading, not you and your dreams, prosperity, and notoriety.)   

Maybe it is my age or maybe I’ve been the one who has had to go behind to many failures and help people regroup and clean up the mess of someone who has moved on, but the longer I live the more I celebrate the leader who can lead, innovate, and succeed without failing or at least do so with the least number of failures possible and with as little collateral damage as possible.

And, if like me, you are in the ministry and are dealing with priceless, eternal souls, I want to see a leader and pastor who makes “leadership decisions” with fear and trembling and in light of eternity. 

The ONE THING for today: Fail if you must, but don’t take it lightly and always remember that every time you “fail forward” you still left a mess behind you.  Make sure it’s worth it for the people who have to clean up. 

2 thoughts on “A Bit of a Rant about Failure & Leadership

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s