Harvard and The Holy Word

Harvard and The Holy Word

The Freedom to Fail

Thomas Edison is credited with the profound statement, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  He was acknowledging the process it took to discover the incandescent light bulb.  In fact, Edison himself acquired a record number of patents and was the driving force behind some of the most influential innovations in history.  For him, failure was a POSITIVE as it provided this sense of discovery and progress.  However, I don’t think many people are comfortable with failure when it comes to what is valued in leadership.  Don’t get me wrong, many corporate leaders have gone on record to say things like, “we reward failure”, or “we encourage our people to stretch themselves, and try something new”, but is failure really rewarded?  Do you look to invest resources like time, money and people talent in something that is uncertain? 

Failure was a POSITIVE as it provided this sense of discovery and progress.

Many businesses, and therefore, many leaders are becoming more and more risk adverse.  The advent of big data and the data science field has lured leaders into believing that anything and everything should be quantified, forecasted, and milestones established BEFORE taking action.  Imagine if Thomas Edison spent his time on building models and projections versus actually doing.  There is a chance many of the fantastic discoveries he made never would have made it further than the pieces of paper he used to analyze them.  Good thing spreadsheets weren’t around during his time!

In previously published blogs we have been examining an article written by Sunni Giles and published by The Harvard Business Review titled, “The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World.”  The article summarizes what key leaders believe to be the most critical competencies for leadership success in today’s world.  To keep the examination exciting, we have then compared these principles to what the Bible says on the same topic.  In John 17:17, Jesus Himself said, “sanctify them in truth, Your Word is truth.”  It doesn’t get much more direct than that.  God’s Word is truth and the fact God’s Word speaks so powerfully to topics that are relevant today, it seems logical to consider Harvard and the Holy Word. 

The Sunni Giles article features the competencies of “creating a feeling of succeeding and failing together”, and the importance of “providing safety for trial and error” as critical characteristics of high impact leaders.  When you consider the importance of innovation in creativity in the world of business, it’s no wonder that these competencies can make such a difference.  My guess is that Thomas Edison created a similar type of environment which allowed him to stretch the boundaries of creative thinking and make an impact on the world around him. 

What about you?  Are you a leader who creates a safe environment and a sense of succeeding or failing together?  What would your team say about your response to failure when it actually happens?  These questions are essential for strong leadership at a time when innovation is important.

What would your team say about your response to failure when it actually happens?

The apostle Paul knew that operating as a team who celebrates success and failure together is important and he also knew the value of failure or tribulation as he would describe it.  In 1 Corinthians 12:26, he writes, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it (NASB).  He later states in a letter to the Romans, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; (Romans 5:3-4 NASB).  Paul was a fearless leader of the early church and the work he did with the people God put in his charge is alive and well today. 

As a leader, if we miss the opportunity to set a standard of everyone being in it together, then people won’t be able to perform at their best.  If individuals are the only thing celebrated, then people can become arrogant and complacent while others may become bitter and empathetic.  On the other hand, if failure is not acknowledged and experienced as a team, then people can become discouraged or relegated to making decisions based on safety and low risk.  Either way, an organization will miss out on the potential for innovation and full use of the team’s talent. 

It’s important to note what Paul says about failure as he describes it in the Romans verses; tribulation (failure) brings about perseverance, and perseverance brings about proven character, and proven character brings about hope.  Hope is the feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.  Teams must have hope in the future and leaders must help to keep the team hopeful. 

In Paul’s case, he wanted his “team” hopeful in the promises that Jesus delivered and what these promises mean for God’s people.  His mission was one of life and death.  What about you and your mission?  Do you have an opportunity to strengthen the hope your team has in the future?  Don’t miss an opportunity to leverage what both Harvard and the Bible say by creating a sense of success and failure as a team and giving them the freedom to fail.  Your team will prosper, and you will make a greater impact on the lives of those around you!

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Craig McAndrews

Craig McAndrews is an accomplished business executive with 27 years of experience in sales leadership, corporate education and C-level responsibility. Most recently, Craig served as the Chief Strategy Officer at Houston based Mattress Firm, where he was responsible for developing strategic growth plans for stores and online businesses. Prior to that, he served in a variety of senior leadership roles including Chief Merchandising Officer, and Chief Learning Officer. Before joining Mattress Firm, he was a sales leader at Sealy Mattress Company and Simmons Bedding Company. Craig also lived the life of an entrepreneur as co-founder and operator of a retail consulting firm, and a chain of mattress retail stores. Currently, he shares his experience at the University of Houston, as an adjunct professor in the Marketing Department while also operating CMAC Capital Group, a small business investment firm. Craig is passionate about leadership development, writing, and teaching. He has written frequently for publications such as Sleep Saavy, Ministry in the Marketplace, and Coach’s Corner. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin, and lives in Friendswood, Texas with his wife April, and their two boys, Ben and Nate.