Currently, I’m sitting in an airport terminal in Richmond, Virginia. A combination of mechanical issues, weather, and vacation chaos has culminated in a delayed flight (sitting at 3+ hour delay so far, and that doesn’t count the fact we were at the airport early!).
Some things are out of our control. Weather, mechanical failure, and attitudes of those around us are all outside of our control.
What we do control is the attitude we use to respond.
I do not know if I am at ease because its the end of my vacation (that has been wonderful), or if I just really enjoy flying so waiting a few extra hours in a terminal with my family seems quite bearable. But I decide how I respond.
The same is true for the clerks working the desk here at gate A7. The people who are paid to handle situations when storms move in two places hundreds of miles from each other appear to have the proper attitudes. No one is grateful for the delay, especially not the girl stuck in the terminal store with a sideways screen, but most people seem to be managing the unfortunateness.
So, let me ask you this: how are you handling the unfortunateness in your life? Let’s narrow down a little: how are you handling the unfortunateness in your leadership?
What’s your attitude as your decisions come under scrutiny, or as those you lead start to show signs of unrest?
What’s your attitude when those you lead completely ignore the direction you are trying to move?
What’s your attitude when you face dilemmas you have never faced before?
What’s your attitude as you peer the future directly in the eyes, not sure if you should jump or stand your ground?
Take some time today to put things in perspective. You will face leadership struggles. You will face leadership failures. You will face leadership storms. But the way you respond, that’s up to you.
As for me, here’s hoping I get to board my flight in the next few hours.
Over the course of the summer I was able to sit down with student leaders from different churches and help them grow in their concept of what leadership looks like. One week, over our time together, we had two people share a similar message: leaders make mistakes.
Today, I want you to hear the same message: Leaders make mistakes. You will make mistakes.
The challenge in leadership is not avoiding mistakes, but what we do when we realize we have made a mistake. Here are three steps to help your mistakes lead you to growth.
For some of us, this may be the most challenging step. Maybe the mistake you made grew more out of a reaction to a decision you made or something you said. Maybe your mistake was a planning mistake, or it had something to do with a choice you made along the way.
No matter what, until you realize you made a mistake, you cannot move forward and learn from it. This is where key voices play an integral role. Having people around you whom you can trust to say what they think you may not want to hear makes all the difference in the world.
Years ago, I served a church and enjoyed a strong relationship with my pastor at the time. We had an important meeting with another church leader one afternoon, and it ended poorly. Later that day he and I came together and I was able to share my opinion on where the meeting went south. Because of the relationship we had, we were able to work through the situation and move forward.
If you want to grow as a leader, please understand you are not infallible. You will make mistakes. What’s worse is that sometimes the people around you will know you made a mistake long before you know it. But, once you realize a mistake has been made, what you do next is paramount.
When you make a mistake, never be afraid to admit it. I would advise against wearing your mistake as a badge of honor, but also don’t treat it like a toothache–if I ignore it long enough, it’ll go away or I’ll die.
When someone in authority over me makes a mistake and admits it, more often than not I respond with a higher level of respect for them. I had a high school basketball coach who tried to get us ready for a game by showing us the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. He wanted us to know we were only playing a game, and the game should be fun, but the desired outcome is not what he hoped. Instead, we played poorly. Later, when reminiscing about his decision, he admitted to me he made the wrong choice in trying to motivate us that way, and I respected him for his honesty.
Own your mistake. Take responsibility for it. Apologize when necessary. But most importantly, once you own your mistake…
Very few people enjoy stubbing their toe on the same support beam in the same spot of their house. They either move into a new house or change how they walk around. Actually, can I say no one enjoys stubbing their toe?
Now we get into the nitty gritty of leadership. The leader who makes the same mistake over and over eventually drives away the people he or she is leading. After all, very few people enjoy following someone who is unwilling to learn or to grow.
If you, however, can learn from your mistakes, you become someone who adds value to the lives around you. Then, over time, you slowly begin to make fewer and fewer mistakes. But it does take time, and lots of it.
The bottom line is this: if you want to grow as a leader, you have to learn from your mistakes. So, are you learning from your mistakes? Are you making changes? Or are you repeating the same action over and over and hoping something (or someone else) changes in the process? Learn from your mistakes and see what happens.
On July 10, 2018, the Cleveland Indians had an unfortunate situation arise. The Manager, Terry Francona, walked out to the mound in the 9th inning to call in a relief pitcher for the closer, and the wrong pitcher walked out of the bullpen. You can read more about what happened here.
Yesterday, as I was listening to a podcast interview with Francona, he was asked about the situation. His response was incredible: It was my fault…I felt bad for Otero (the pitcher who came into the game). I feel bad that we put him in that spot.
Here is a Major League manager who admitted his mistake. There was a breakdown in communication (OP and OT do sound remarkably similar), and it cost the team the win.
Francona, however, still takes full responsibility.
So, what can we learn from this? Leadership means we will make decisions which impact those around us. Sometimes, those decisions are the right call at the right time, but others times the decisions we make lead to embarrassment for other people. It was Otero, after all, that stood on the mound and pitched, not Francona.
Is there a situation taking place in your life right now where you are dealing with the fallout of putting the wrong person in the wrong situation? If not, buckle down, because that day is coming.
I have heard interviews with business leaders who talk about how much money making the wrong hire will cost a company, and have seen similar setbacks over my years in ministry.
So, what do you do as a leader when you make a mistake? Check back on Thursday for part 2!
I have a dirt driveway. Well, part of it is dirt, and part is caliche. When it rains, the dirt turns to mud (obviously), and I avoid driving through the mud. Sounds simple right?
I avoid the mud for two reasons: I hate getting my suburban muddy and I hate having to drive through dried ruts (created from driving through mud in the first place).
Ruts can be annoying. The make the ride rougher, because I can never seem to find the right spot to drive through the rut.
But, ruts can be beneficial. When I’m driving down the dirt road leading to our house, I can tell which part of the run is the muddiest by looking at the ruts.
We all have ruts in our lives. I bet you didn’t see this one coming, right?
Not just ruts, though. We also have routines.
I have a specific routine when I park my suburban. I always back in. I have no solid reason or justification for it, I just prefer to avoid the ruts in my driveway when I’m starting my day. Not swerve around them, but bypass them altogether.
You have routines, too. It may be exercise, food choices, weekly schedules, the order you get ready in the morning. Routines give structure to what can often become a chaotic world.
Routines are good. They help us prepare for what comes next, because we know our routine. After completing Task A, our routine says it’s time to move to Task B. It’s simple.
Until a routine becomes a rut. What used to be simple and natural, now feels forced and rough.
Honestly, I think routines and ruts are both very natural, but I do not think they are both beneficial. Ruts mean the time to change has already passed; change now becomes necessary.
I have no secret weapon today, but let me challenge you to do something: take a sheet of paper (or open a note on your phone) and write down 4 things: first write down three routines you have; then write down one rut you find yourself trying to navigate.
Now, you’ve identified a rut. What do you need to do to get out of it? Who can help? What do you need to give up?
Bronte ISD (in the community where I serve), held commencement services on May 18, 2018. As usual, that marked the end of school and beginning of summer.
Pending unknown and unforeseen circumstances, this will be the first week since graduation I have not packed a suitcase. Not every trip has been a church trip, however.
When I planned my summer I knew it was going to be busy with church activities. One thing I did not plan, however, was the way our family trips would fill in the other weeks.
Thinking back over the past few months, our family schedule has been a little crazier than normal. So, knowing that, as we went into summer, we wanted to be able to have some intense quality time with our girls (who have had a busy summer as well!).
Navigating pace is a challenge, and something I do not have figured out fully. One thing I do know, however, is we have had to be intentional with our family time this summer.
Here’s our leadership principle for today: when the pace speeds up, find ways to slow down.
For some people, that means saying no at the front. Other people can find the times to slow down in the midst of the chaos. The days we are home this summer, we get done what needs to get done and hit the brakes hard, enjoying a different speed for a moment.
Slowing down for you may mean unplugging from your phone. Or maybe finding time to pursue a hobby (I built a stool last Friday). Maybe it’s getting caught up in a good book, or journaling. It may mean some great family time watching a movie or taking a mini-trip of some sort.
If you want to survive in leadership, and in life, do not let yourself become a victim of the pace you set. Find ways to slow down when you need to slow down, and see what rest can do.