RRGwrites

On life…and learning

Posts Tagged ‘Failure

What If We Fail…

with 2 comments

India Wold Cup Team

India meets Australia tomorrow – the semi-final of ICC World Cup 2015. The game we all have been waiting for… a game in which billions of Indians all over the world don’t want Dhoni and men to fail… a game, where victory is being treated like a need, where failure isn’t an option.

I am feeling quite restless. What if we fail tomorrow? What if the journey of the Indian team’s world cup ends tomorrow? The same team, which fared extremely poorly down under in last 4 months and which almost has risen like a Phoenix in last 7 matches of this tournament. What if they lose now…

In this hour of my restlessness, I find solace and hope in the words of a very old advertisement I had read. It was by Bajaj Auto, and if I recall right, was a campaign for the motorcycle brand ‘Bajaj Caliber.’ I read it long, long ago, loved it and noted it in my diary. It has, since then, helped me sail through some of my own tough moments;

What are we going to do when we fail?

When we find the wrong kind of tears,

running down our cheeks.

When we look at our Gods

and see mortals instead.

When the sports page

reads like an obituary.

When we know all others are

celebrating our grief.

What are we going to do when we fail?

We’re going to look up from our toes.

And into the sun. Without flinching.

We’re going to walk out there alone.

Again.

Grit our teeth.

Take guard.

And wait for the next ball.

Like a true fan, I too would love India to win tomorrow. But more than that, I would love the game of cricket to win, the game to stay belonged to the gentlemen, where we are allowed to fail at time… and not crucified for it.

Leadership and Failure

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October 15, 2011. It is 10pm in India. Indian cricket team has just won today’s ODI against England! Hurray! Dhoni scored a match-winning knock and was awarded “Man of the Match.” He rocks!

Don’t you feel strange? This very Indian team was written off only a month ago – obituaries were writ all over. I remember reading how the team has let the nation down and that Dhoni needs to review his captaincy, he needs rest!

A month ago, they had all failed, and their leader, Dhoni, failed miserably…

Strange is this word, failure. I have always found it even stranger when linked to the failure of a leader. We love to crucify our leaders when they fail. Analysis-paralysis is done to see what went wrong, and most often, the leader of the pack is packed!

Our corporate world is even more incriminating. It just doesn’t allow people to fail – there isn’t a room of acceptance or acknowledgement of failure. In case a leader fails, she is impeached brutally. We just don’t read the two words – leadership and failure – together.

I have always found this ironical. I my view, leaders must fail. They must learn to fail and sometimes, fail spectacularly. I know you may find it stupid for me to say so. Let me explain…

A leader is often considered above the followers. A person of higher skill, intelligence, authority, command and even a master of the trade. She shouldn’t fail – she has to succeed in everything she does – that’s why she is the leader and that’s why people follow her. She can’t fail…

Only, if that were true…

Leaders are very human – just like the rest of the humankind. They are not leading because they are BEST at everything their followers do and know; they lead for they are good with people, good with managing their talent and ambition. There is no guarantee that a great software engineer would become a great Project Leader too. And we would all agree, even the ones so called best-in-class fail to lead a team, unless and until they know how to manage people and make them deliver their best. Now, that has no bearing altogether on the leader’s expertise of the craft in question.

In my view, all leaders have a right to make mistakes, right to fail. They just need to have a will and skill to recover faster than other who failed, and document the learning immediately for others to learn from it. I remember reading somewhere, “One fails faster towards success.” Failure is a part of winning, and if leaders are the one who guide us towards success, they must be allowed to falter, to bite dust. More so, because every failure is a mere event and not a person called Leader. What matters is the lesson, the learning, the will to accept the failure and the resolve not to repeat the same mistake. Now, if failures aren’t tolerated at all, there won’t be any learning and improvement too. Won’t that be too dangerous a situation for the growth of the organizations, nations and humankind?

My fundamental belief is – failures make leaders appear a little more vulnerable, a little more human and much closer to their followers. We connect with people who are like us. We don’t want our leaders to be necessarily infallible; we want them to standby with us when we fail, and pull us out of our debacles. Now, if we could witness our leaders rising from their ashes, I believe, our resolve in them would increase manifold. Then, shouldn’t we allow our leaders to fail at times?

In modern day organizations, we keep hearing words like ‘risk-taking.’ We attach considerable merit to this phrase, and also call it a leadership quality. We encourage risk-taking and offer rewards for successful outcomes; praise the leaders for taking well-planned risks. Now, don’t we fail sometimes when we take risks? We do. But the same modern day organizations impeach the leaders without a second thought, when they fail. No wonder, average shelf life of a CEO in the USA is close to only 2 years! Why would any leader take risks then? And we all know, how slow the pace of growth would be, if leaders wouldn’t take risks!

Samuel I. Hayakawa once said, “Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, “I have failed three times,” and what happens when he says, “I am a failure.”” 

I allow myself to fail. I have failed on several occasions in my life, even failed spectacularly at times. And each time, learnt an invaluable lesson – of not repeating the reason of my failure. Each failure has made me stronger, better, enriched. It brought new learning, it made me braver. My failures opened the new doors too. I am a better leader by allowing myself the freedom to fail. Today, I allow my team-members their share of failures, their share of mistakes. I already see them doing the same with their teammates…it is absolutely infectious, a matter of culture, and translates into an inevitable quality of a leader – to try to do better, to fail, to learn from that failure, teach others how not to fail at the same thing twice, and to keep pushing the envelope.

Do you?

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Photo-credit: ashepherdsheart.blogspot.com

Written by RRGwrites

October 15, 2011 at 2:18 AM

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