I read a quote from Seth Godin the other day that got me thinking: “If failure is not an option, neither is success.”
Any simplified motivational phrase causes me to pause. Life is more complicated than simplistic catch-all slogans. I won’t analyze Seth’s quote but we are on the same page.
The common phrase, failure is not an option, lights up a few areas in my mind. I know why this is said. We’re trying to underscore the importance of something. We’re trying to motivate.
Ethics. What happens when we tell someone that failure is not an option? It could be perceived as permission to do anything even if it’s not legal. We’ve seen this in banking, VW, Enron, etc.
Simplistic. Vince Lombardi uttered the words, “Winning is not everything it is the only thing.” However his focus was on the execution of the smallest detail and he let the winning take care of itself. We can’t be too literal when we look at these slogans. We can’t control how literal our audience will be which requires caution.
Competitiveness. My cousin lived 2 blocks away. He and all his friends were two or three years older than I was. I had to keep up or get beat up. This lit a competitive fire. I’m sure you have a similar story that is foundational to why you’re a leader. Not everyone is as competitive as we are.
Out of touch. As a leader you have a unique view point. You should share the insights that come from that view because others can’t see what you can. However, there is a view you can’t see because of your position. Insisting on not losing makes it appear as if you are out of touch. A bit more depth is needed.
The best right thing. Rather than losing is not an option, how about the mindset of the best right thing? It’s OK to be all about results. Perhaps as leaders we should spend some time on how we get there as well. Setting a target and winning at all costs, regardless of impact or logic, is for politicians. We as leaders can’t afford that approach. Embracing the pivot (start-up lingo for when the original idea shifts to one that really works) and focusing on the best right thing allows you to be a true leader.
To Do This Week: Pay attention to your language listening for shortcuts. What impacts may these language shortcuts have on your leadership reach?
Let me know how it’s goes. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.