Surprise, good leaders make mistakes and don’t always have the right answers.
While at a leadership training with my boss and in a room full of leadership teams, I raise my hand to answer a question. The great facilitator calls on me by name and repeats every point I made. And, my answer is WRONG!
Not only is it wrong, there is a five minute video segment that follows and explains the right answer. I heard or imagined that someone said, “ I knew that wasn’t the right answer.” It felt like the video segment was really a full length feature film starring me as the foil.
Ten minutes later my hand begins to go back in the air as we tackle another question, My inner critic announces a call by call play. “My God, won’t you learn. Keep it down. Just shut up and watch from the sideline. No one expects you to answer. You can blend into the background. Shut up and look good! There’s nothing at stake. Oh no! You just can’t help it, can you? Tsk, tsk. You have to raise your hand. Now what?”
Leadership is not a spectator sport. We have to act and sometimes we don’t have all the right answers. We make mistakes. However, mistakes and the fear of making mistakes don’t paralyze us. We have solid experience so our right actions outweigh the wrong ones, most wrong actions are correctable, and we build a team of support who help us do the right thing.
So up my hand goes when there is a leadership question and discussion. I may not get the answer right and I will suffer the five minutes of embarrassment of my mistake. But I’m determined to stay in there and grapple with difficult questions and issues so I can get it right when it matters.
How about you?