Everyone is a leader. How may times have you cringed when you heard that statement? I know I have.
I also know that I am a leader. Not only does my job as an executive director place me in a leadership position, I am a mother who leads my family, I am a leader in my church, and I hold leadership roles in other organizations throughout my community.
This is not an “everyone is a leader” piece, this is more of a “how I lead when I am struggling, when I don't feel like a leader, when I feel like a failure” piece.
The past few months have presented some intense challenges to my confidence as a leader. I believe I am not alone in facing these feelings of failure.
Navigating seasons of difficulty as a leader can be one of the hardest things we face. When self-doubt and wavering confidence begin to take root in leaders, it can be hard to regain our footing. What do we do when the train keeps moving? When employees continue to need direction, when clients continue to need guidance and when life just will not slow down enough for us to catch our breath?
As a woman and a leader, these seasons can feel overwhelming. But leadership does not pause when life gets hard and when struggles come. So, what can we do? How do leaders keep going when facing failure?
During the many seasons of struggle I have had to navigate in my leadership journey, I have become a firm believer in the importance and impact of leading with and through vulnerability. Being vulnerable is not an easy or naturally comfortable state.
“Vulnerability” comes from the Latin word for “wound,” “vulnus.” Vulnerability is the state of being open to injury or appearing as if you are. In leadership roles, our wounds are not oblivious to those we lead. Our colleagues, employees, friends and family can see that we are struggling. Allowing ourselves to be honest about our struggles while still showing up every day and putting one foot in front of the other is an extraordinary opportunity to lead by example.
I have also come to see the value in changing my perspective of failure. Failure is defined simply as lack of success. So, do we ever really fail? Or do we “not succeed”? An even better way to frame it would be that we did not succeed that time. At that job, that project, that relationship or at whatever is causing us to doubt ourselves as leaders.
Change your perspective of failure and your opportunity to learn from your lack of success in any instance goes up drastically.
The following are four easy reminders that can help all of us as we continue on our journeys to be good, solid, inspiring leaders who provide stability for those we lead.
Good leaders keep learning. When an endeavor does not pan out the way we plan, we must keep moving forward. Learning from the ways in which our outcomes do not turn out as intended is a vital sign of a good leader.
Good leaders try new things. We only know what we know. If we are going to grow, we must step out and try new things. Staying the same does not make us a good leader.
Good leaders do not shy away from being vulnerable. Continuing to learn and trying new things will inevitably set us up to be in a position of vulnerability. Do not shy away from this opportunity to lead.
Good leaders have mentors. The value of a mentor or a team of mentors cannot be overstated. Allowing others to speak into our lives and our leadership can bring the answers we cannot see on our own.
A good leader keeps going. They are always learning and in doing so, they unavoidably face difficult times.
Plans do not always go the way we intend. Sometimes things just do not work out the way we plan. But true leaders keep going and, in doing so, we just might change the world.
Tomi Cardin is executive director of Redemption House in Fort Wayne, a transition home for women.