When you come across a young leader who shows great potential, it’s easy to see them for what they could be. We imagine what a great communicator they’re going to be, we envision the influence they’re going to have with our team, we anticipate how they’re going to take on significant responsibility.
But the key phrase is “going to.” While they show great leadership potential, they’re not there yet.
They’ll fail to communicate the right thing at the right time, they’ll fail to gain early credibility with your team, or they’ll fail to follow through with an assigned task.
The key phrase is “they will fail.” I want you to think about something: It may be your failure to tolerate failure that’s causing the failure of your leadership development efforts.
Our response to these young leaders failures may be one of the greatest determining factors in their future leadership. It has a dramatic impact on them when we take the messiness of their mistakes and use it to develop their leadership insight and ability.
But that only happens when we’re able to remove our negative emotional reaction to their failure and see if for what it could and should be: A leadership development opportunity.
- Failure may be a step backward toward an outcome, but it can be a step forward in personal development.
- Failure may do short-term damage to their leadership credibility, but their response to failure can be the very thing that establishes a long-term credible authority.
- Failure may briefly wound their leadership confidence, but coached proper, failure can inspire them to face the next risk with bold faith.
- Failure may momentarily make them look foolish, but it will ultimately increase their leadership wisdom.
Remember leadership development is a slow, messy process. While you may feel the pressure of needing leaders “overnight,” you can’t produce leaders “overnight,” no matter how much potential they have. So wisely partner with time and failure to do their work in the development of your potential leaders.
How well are you helping your young leaders steward failure?