2014: Bring Your Spirit to Leadership

First a confession: I failed to make my goals in 2013. Am I a failure? Well, maybe not.


Labyrinth of Failure

According to the principles of lean leadership, finding and owning mistakes is cause for celebration. If my number of mistakes in 2013 is any measure of success, it was a great year.

Note in the above sentence I said “mistakes” and not “failures.” Our personal flaws lead us to make mistakes but we only fail when we don’t fail safe—when our mistakes cause irrevocable harm or cost from which we or others may not recover. For example, what an incredible responsibility construction engineers, contractors, architects, and other builders shoulder to assure their structures, if they ever fail, will always fail safe.

Even if making mistakes is a sign of success, I still don’t feel like celebrating.

  1. My revenues fell short of my goals, not to mention my needs and desires.
  2. In terms of creative ideas throughout the year, several great one’s emerged but only a few were implemented.
  3. Finally, my blog writing suffered for I did not meet the frequency of postings recommended by professionals.

Does anyone think that falling short of all these goal areas made 2013 a success?

What Makes a Year of Failure a Success?

I’m happy to see 2014. In fact, I’m looking forward to it. But I have to ask, in falling short of my goals in 2013, how best do I move forward to make more positive progress in the New Year?

In the words of Carol Hunter and Tim Rouse, long time advocates for leaders who take the time to reflect on their circumstances, reflection brings a person’s true spirit to her/his leadership. So I’ve done a little soul-searching. I have listed the bad news from 2013 above. The good news for 2014 is below.

  1. My loved ones are well and speaking to one another, as well as to me.
  2. I feel optimistic about 2014. Given the downers of last year, some might say my optimism is out of touch with reality. Instead, in 2014 I’ll be strategically optimistic and pessimistic in order to make the most appropriate responses to every opportunity.
  3. 2014 looks like it could be a bonus year for increasing revenues. Maybe I could earn one.
  4. My wife and I have enough to eat and a dry and comfortable shelter to weather the winter. We belong to a rich faith community. We have lifelong friends. We have our health and failing that we have some great health insurance.

“The first wealth is health.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

From these reflections I’ll settle on three areas of focus for 2014. The first implies I have to survive mistakes to benefit from them.

#In 2014, to benefit from failure, learn how to fail safe.

The second reminds me I have to go through the pain of admitting, owning, and reconciling myself to mistakes to learn how to avoid them in the future—at least to recognize when I am backsliding–“Oh boy, here I go again.”

#Own the pain of failure to move beyond it.

The third resolution encourages me to devote quality time, even prayerful time, to the regular process of reflecting about mistakes to bring a true spirit to bear on leadership.

#Reflect on mistakes to grow from them.

My best New Year wishes to all.

#May all your mistakes be stepping-stones to success.

Upcoming Discussion: The Second Illogical Belief

The first illogical belief was on the superhuman complex. If you think an awareness of that nightmare is not enough to make leaders review their decisions and actions, the second illogical belief is even more insidious. Leaders who set themselves up to fail by way of a “know-it-all” belief system often provoke the rest of us to err through our own know-it-all responses. Interaction such as this can foster much chaos—like an angry mob with torches on a night-time witch hunt. Well, maybe just an angry mob with clubs and flashlights, but you get the idea.

About Gene Morton

OD Consultant and Author of the two-time award winning book, Leaders First: Six Bold Steps to Sustain Breakthroughs in Construction. See excerpts at www.genemorton.com. Leader development and team development through coaching, consulting, and presenting on topics related to the structure of leadership in groups and organizations. Through his years of experience implementing mergers, reorganization, culture change, and organization transformation, Gene learned how an effective structure of leadership compensates for, and balances, leader blind spots, improving performance overall, and making innovation and change possible. He enjoys working in the construction industry, heath care, governmental, as well as the non-profit world.
This entry was posted in Leader Development, Leadership Structure, Thrive on Failure and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 2014: Bring Your Spirit to Leadership

  1. martinmalley says:

    Great learnings, Gene. Thanks for sharing them.


  2. Randal Ford says:

    Gene I appreciate your latest post. Working with engineers who have a perfectionist mind-set, I always had to remind them that “Mistakes are only unplanned learning opportunities.” Failures are the inability to learn from mistakes. When one takes on an ‘know-it-all’ attitude, this becomes I think a self-sealing defense that fosters failure in not learning from mistakes.

    Sir Dyson, on Charlie Rose, underscored this point when he said real innovation is a series of mistakes that you learn from, and the final innovative product is never like the starting point idea. I agree with you mistakes lead to success. And yes, ‘know-it-all’ leaders sort circuit the learning from mistakes for themselves and those who interact with them. Perhaps because the mistake is not celebrated for what it is — the avenue for better ideas to try. After all in school we are condition to see a mistake as an aberration; that is, we all have been marked down for our mistaken answers, and therefore mistakes are to be avoided.

    Thoughts? Comments?


    • Gene Morton says:

      Randall: As always, your perspectives are thought provoking. I appreciate the quote about engineers. Your comment about “know it all” attitude is a useful way to reframe the consequences of this illogical belief. As you imply, we can learn from almost everything we experience. Not-to-reflect cuts us off from our own learning and a lot of the richness in life. I hope we can keep this idea alive among leaders.


Leave a Reply to martinmalley Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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