Have you ever failed at something?
I have. Many times!
I believe a key part of life and leadership is navigating, walking through and bouncing back from failure. I’ll never forget not making sports teams as a young person and how I responded to those situations. Those were great learning experiences for me. Later, in other school situations, I didn’t do as well as I had hoped and people told me:
“Joe, maybe you should consider a different career.”
OUCH! That one hurt.
Later still I was being encouraged to try other posts in life and several times I was told “No”. Again, big learning experiences for me!
To be in leadership, you have to know how to deal with “No” and with “Not doing so well” and even utter “Failure”.
Many times my colleagues in Asia have shared how the faculty of Asian Access changed their paradigms of leadership. For most of them, they believe that as a pastor they cannot show their mistakes. They live constantly being watched and put on pedestals and so they learn, over time, to mask their real issues in life.
However, several of our faculty challenge their deeply held belief about strong leadership by sharing openly about their own failures. They vulnerably talk about their mistakes in ministry and how those became great learning experiences, humbling moments in their lives. But, they also talk about how through opening themselves up to others they grow through these painful experiences and become stronger. From there they move into smaller group sharing and it’s amazing what people begin to share.
Leaders who were isolated... are now connected
All of a sudden huge burdens are lifted as they share their sins, their foibles, and their abysmal or even epic fails. This catalyzes a whole new approach to ministry where they find people (other A2 alumni usually) who they can be accountable to and begin to process what’s happening, learn from it and bounce back. They cry together and pray for one another and next thing you know, they are making strides in these major issues of life. And, they begin to better identify with their church members, more able than ever to help them through their own crises. So failure can become a springboard to more effective ministry.
Where the vulnerability of our faculty opens the door for this paradigm shift, the power of the learning community helps them to experience it firsthand. As a result, this experience embeds a new belief system into these leaders.
Grace & Community to Help Us
The psalmist says,
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”
– Psalm 37:23-24.
Even when we fail, God is there for us. And, he has given us one another to carry us through the trials. Sometimes we need others to help us make sense of failure and see the way forward.
Failure brings us the opportunity to grow, to gain perspective, to turn things in a new direction. Without failure, I’m not sure we can lead well.
In fact, I’m convinced the road through failure is what makes us better leaders.
If you’ve had an Epic Fail, run to God and head to a trusted advisor or counselor. God can turn things around! And, you’ll become stronger for it.
What have you learned from failure? Do share with us!
Joe Handley, President