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May 2: Leadership

May 2: Leadreship 

By Leaders Forum 2018 participant Haley Remington 

After a day at work, the 2018 Leaders in Action filed into the Ballarat Tech Park lecture theatre to learn about success and failure. Aptly facilitated by Garry Trotter, we reflected on the fact that beliefs shape the way we view our world, that we are all born with similar truths, but our context in life influences what we think and believe. Our beliefs in turn influence how we perceive success and failure.

We learn from early on that to succeed in life we should never make a mistake, when we get something wrong, we are often taught that there’s something wrong with us. As an example, when we a receive a test back with red crosses we’re led to believe we’ve failed. Behavioural research suggests we should teach children to consider that rather than failing that test, they just haven’t learnt enough yet. Instead of only praising intelligence or talent, we should praise the effort gone into achieving the result.

We discussed how our mindset or beliefs can influence our actions each day, with our ‘mindset both propelling us and preventing us from fulfilling our potential’. We considered research that demonstrated how changing our mindset, to believe we can grow, can help us overcome the fear of failure and instead allow us to see failure as an opportunity to learn. Rather than letting failure define us, we can view it as a problem to deal with and learn from.

Following that, we heard from three respected community leaders about their experiences of failure. Each shared generously their personal anecdotes and it was clear that failure is perceived differently by people depending on their beliefs and individual resilience. For some, failure can be overwhelming, far taking over any success that may be achieved. A metaphor provided by one of the speakers exemplifies this:

Imagine success as a strawberry, and failure as a cockroach. If you have one cockroach in a bowl of strawberries, then for some, the entire bowl of strawberries is ruined. However, one strawberry in a bowl of cockroaches doesn’t make much difference.

All speakers agreed that to succeed, we need to overcome our fear of failure and understand that it is not a personal shortcoming, but just something that happened, a situation to be overcome, and a lesson learned for what change is needed. To succeed we need to be brave, be open to opportunities, and understand that if we don’t have failure then we can’t learn. Rather than let failure define us, we should use it a learning board to spring from into success.

To finish the evening, we reflected back on our own leadership styles and how we perceive failure. The discussions in the room were energetic, particularly for 8.30pm on hump day. We considered our traits, particularly what we can work on to improve, with the knowledge that these characteristics were not flaws, but something to develop and to help us become better leaders in the community. 

As we move forward in our careers, and as leaders in our communities, we need to understand that failure happens. To be successful leaders we should take opportunities and risks, and, if we fail, we need to learn from our past mistakes to make better choices for the future. To have knowledge and not use is to fail.