Great leaders are not infallible, they are not perfect, and they will occasionally make a mistake, they will sometimes drop the ball.
Before I continue, let me clarify what is not a mistake. A mistake is not anything to do with a failure in integrity, an immoral or unethical action that hurts someone or the organization.
Dropping the ball means making a decision or deciding on a course of action that doesn’t work. Talk to anyone who started and grew a successful business out of a garage and they’ll tell you about making mistakes. It’s usually the only way they learned, the only way they innovated, the only way they thrived.
I don’t believe in perfection, it can be a curse much more than a blessing. You certainly need to have high standards and expectations, but when the ball drops, great leaders don’t blame and they don’t point fingers. Instead, they admit they were wrong, ask the insightful questions, learn what happened, make it a lesson, and try again. The most important skill is that they demonstrate incredible accountability for their actions. (Think of those “leaders” who always blame someone else when things go wrong and always take the credit when things go right.)
Dropping the ball most of the time means that you weren’t being reckless, but rather you were trying something different, trying to learn. You were taking a risk, a smart risk. There are many wonderful quotes about taking a risk, here’s my favorite:
If you never take a risk, nothing bad will ever happen to you, but nothing great will either.
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Little, Brown and Company
(October 24, 2017)