None of us enjoy feeling stupid, and feeling wrong is just as bad. Feeling foolish, ignorant and uninformed all fall in the same category. And yet, if we’re going to do what we do well, we not only have to be prepared to be all of these things at some stage, but to share them with others openly – especially if any of us are to grow.
Not wanting to feel these things is responsible for us hiding our mistakes (as if no one else has ever made any). It is responsible for us being unable to draw on the lessons we and others we partner with have learned, and for us taking the long way round to better solutions. It’s also responsible for us continuing to act from a narrower perspective unstretched by new experience and the input of others. Not wanting to be wrong is responsible for uncorrected mistakes that cause bigger issues down the line, and slow or stop our flow and progress.
No one has ever arrived in a position of leadership by being right in every decision they’ve ever made. In fact, one of the greatest strengths of leadership is agility, which is the ability to make quick and informed decisions, reassess, and make the next necessary decision. Seldom does achieving anything require us to make one monumental decision, rather a series of decisions adjusted for the results each decision produces.
If leaders are to foster teams where communication is open, mistakes admitted and corrected, and where team members grow and progress, then leaders must demonstrate fallibility and how to recover from it. Learning from our mistakes is exactly what allows us to progress. An environment that attempts staid perfectionism is not fertile ground for any kind of connection or growth.
Another reason that mistakes and the admission of them is vitally important is that it takes courage to admit a mistake. Admitting mistakes makes us vulnerable, which isn’t a comfortable thing to be. Vulnerability is not a weakness, but a strength, because of the courage it requires. Considering that courage is not the absence of fear, but action in spite of fear, it’s an incredibly powerful trait to display. It is powerfully connecting as it goes a long way to leveling the playing field and making others feel more comfortable. Why? Because none of us is perfect. (Don’t tell anybody!) And because none of us is perfect, we all KNOW it’s only a matter of time before we make a mistake ourselves. To be in an environment where mistakes are not only safely admitted but celebrated for the opportunity they present is a recipe for growth and forward movement.
When we can help to create an environment where mistakes are not something to be hidden or ashamed of, but something to smile at and move through with realization, discussion and correction – then we create space where team members draw closer together, errors don’t go uncorrected until a wheel falls off, and we all become faster and more accurate in identifying and implementing the need for course correction. We also learn to take ourselves much less seriously!
This kind of open and vulnerable conversation creates space for fully engaged and passionate team players who are freer to move and enjoy what they do because the constricting weight of fear is lifted off their shoulders. We create space where passionate souls are not interrupted in their flow and are allowed to bring all their individualism to the table.
Whether it’s in our teams, our businesses or our homes, our imperfections are what make us human. They’re what connect us to each other and they’re where growth, humour and learning come from. If leaders can create safe space by demonstrating these traits themselves, and team members are willing to show up for each other and take responsibility for their part in the greater plan, then we can expect everyone to be more fully and safely engaged with their purpose.
If you’d like to understand more about how vulnerability and strong leadership go hand in hand, you can do so here.
by Christen Killick
July 12th, 2021