Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Friday, December 26, 2014

Learning From Mistakes


Many posts have been written about Leadership and there are many recurring themes about what makes a great leader. One of those ideas is that Leaders are Human and make mistakes. The real question is what happens next. Do they admit they made a mistake? Do they learn from their mistakes? Or do they blame others. 
This week we read the weekly  Torah portion Vayigash, where Judah pleads to Joseph on behalf of Benjamin and when Joseph finally reveals himself to his brother. Last Year Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote the following article "The Unexpected Leader"

For many of you who have read my blog before know that I am big fan of Rabbi Sacks and he is true to mentor to me. I would like to share with you some his words. 

"Leaders make mistakes. That is an occupational hazard of the role. Managers follow the rules, but leaders find themselves in situations for which there are no rules. Do you declare a war in which people will die, or to you refrain from doing so at the risk of letting your enemy grow stronger with the result that more will die later? That was the dilemma faced by Chamberlain in 1939, and it was only some time later that it became clear that he was wrong and Churchill right.
But leaders are also human and they make mistakes that have nothing to do with leadership and everything to do with human weakness and temptation. The sexual conduct of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton was less than perfect. Does this affect our judgment of them as leaders or not? Judaism suggests it should. The prophet Nathan was unsparing of King David when he sinned with another man’s wife.
What matters, suggests the Torah, is that you repent – you recognise and admit your wrong, and you change as a result. As Rav Soloveitchik pointed out, both Saul and David, Israel’s first two kings, sinned. Both were reprimanded by a prophet. Both said chatati, “I have sinned.” But their fates were radically different. Saul lost his throne, David did not. The reason, said the Rav, was that David confessed immediately. Saul prevaricated and made excuses before admitting his sin.
The stories of Judah and of his descendant David tell us that what mark a leader is not necessarily perfect righteousness. It is the ability to admit mistakes, to learn from them and grow from them. The Judah we see at the beginning of the story is not the man we see at the end, just as the Moses we see at the burning bush – stammering, hesitant – is not the mighty hero we see at the end, “his sight undimmed, his natural energy unabated.” A leader is one who, though he may stumble and fall, arises more honest, humble and courageous than he was before."

Let us remember that we all are human and we all will make mistakes the true sign of a great leader is what happens next 

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