I was in conversation a couple of years ago with a mentor who was listening to me share about how frustrating it can be to not get the results of a project just right, or even worse, simply miss the mark. Like many of you I take responsibility seriously and it can be a struggle living with the reality that we are going to let people down on occasion. My friend listened and provided me with a profound response. He reminded me that while none of us want to fall short there are valuable lessons in it. He shared that “failure is often the mark that lets you know if you are good at your job or if you’ve just been lucky.” That thought has stayed with me and conveys a valuable insight.

Failure is often the mark that lets you know if you are good at your job or if you’ve just been lucky.

As a leader we have to know if we are we good at our jobs or have inherited a run of luck. This is important because, invariably, luck runs out. Luck, not meant in the superstitious sense, is a run of circumstances to your favor. It may be coming into a great culture of employees or having been in charge of a project that has a history of doing well. At some point circumstances turn, adversity sets in, and leadership will be needed. So, how does one know they are ready for those moments? How does one know they have the skills in place vs. simply riding the benefit of good circumstances?

Here are three questions for a quick self-test:

  • Are you being stretched/is the job too easy? In most all jobs there are seasons where we breathe a little more and things seem to go well. If that’s a constant state then you have to look at yourself. Are you taking the right steps to grow as a leader in this season? Are you pushing your team to grow as well? If you aren’t running into challenging problems then likely you aren’t pushing hard enough.
  • Have you failed/taken appropriate risks? If you can’t think of a time you’ve failed in your work then likely you aren’t pushing the boundaries of what you can accomplish. This has to be weighed carefully as foolish risks will not help you to grow your influence. Most people, however, understand the concept of “nothing attempted, nothing gained.” Your leaders and your team want you to take the right risks at the right time. “Safe “ leadership will never push the work or your ability to influence further.
  • Are you humble/really humble? This is the worst of the traps to fall into. A couple of successes and one thinks they’ve got it all solved. This results in isolation from input and an orientation that one has all the answers. It’s a sure way to cut off your team and set yourself up for a fall. This takes an honest self-check. How do you see yourself and how do you see those around you? Do you have the right servant attitude? If you think you are always the smartest person in the room then you’ll never see failure coming. We all need a good “humbling” from time to time.

Simply sitting on our opportunities doesn’t grow us and doesn’t honor that with which we are trusted.

As we think about how we influence others to their best and how that reflects on our ability to exhibit our desire to follow Jesus in this area it’s hard not to be reminded of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. In this story the master rewards workers who proved they could manage the money they were put in charge of well. The one who simply buried the money and then gave it back was chastised. As we think about this and the potential application to how we steward influence we are given we need to think more like the two who took chances and grew what they were trusted with. Simply sitting on our opportunities doesn’t grow us and doesn’t honor that with which we are trusted. Discern in your own life the differences between being “lucky” and truly taking smart risk to grow yourself as a leader.

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