Where do you lead? Interesting question, so let me explain. In our lives, personal and professional, we are all, to some degree, expected to lead. Formally or informally, wanted or unwanted, we are expected to provide leadership and guidance. Sounds pretty basic, right? I submit that not everyone realizes this. For example:
- We've all seen the tragic stories of an 8 y/o child killed by a stray bullet on a city street at 11pm on a school night, right? Why was he on the street, instead of somewhere safe in the care of the person responsible for his welfare? Who was leading that child?
- A "manager of others" at work screams, yells, and throws things to get what he wants. His abhorrence for mistakes does not allow his charges to grow and learn. Yet he complains about all the calls he gets at all hours of the night, asking him for a decision on the most menial of items. Should he really be in charge of others?
- The president of the PTA is in the role, but has absolutely no idea what to do to motivate others, so she winds up doing everything herself. After one term, she is burned out and wants nothing to do with the PTA. Why did she put herself in this position?
- A child comes home with a failing grade and the parents blame the teacher...yet they have not taken the time to check homework or enforce rules requiring study at home. Is it really the teacher's fault?
These are just a few examples of where leadership is required and the leader isn't necessarily aware. They blame others or circumstances or fate or genetics or their horoscope....anything else except the face in the mirror. This is not how leaders should behave.
If we are to effectively lead in whatever way life demands of us, we must understand something I learned early in my military career: The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters. That is: don't make excuses for your shortcomings.
Recognize that no one is perfect and we must all admit failure from time to time. What you do after that will determine if you are a leader. What you do after you recognize a failure of your own making should be to try to understand what went wrong and learn from it for the future.
Failure is just an opportunity to learn. Repeated failure in the same task is an inability to be honest with ourselves and learn. Take the time today to be aware that it's okay to make an honest mistake, but be honest with yourself.
Leaders learn from their mistakes and drive on to be better.
And it's a lifelong process.