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Senior Correspondent

Leaders who can’t fail won’t succeed because failure is essential to success. A world without failure is dead. Furthermore:

Leaders frequently fail at letting others fail.

Leaders who can’t let others fail:

  1. Limit growth.
  2. Hog tie innovation.
  3. Sap confidence.
  4. Live fearing the next failure; they’re control freaks.
  5. Tend to blame rather than develop.

Hand-holding isn’t helping:

Help strengthens; hand-holding creates dependency. Pseudo-kindness motivates you to hold someone’s hand — protect or cover for them.

Hand-holding doesn’t strengthen it weakens.

For example, you’ve been constantly reminding someone of deadlines because they don’t follow through. At first it was helpful. But, hand-holding enabled their weakness. Their weakness became your responsibility.

Carrying others isn’t good for anyone, over the long-term.

Frustration from covering incompetency motivates you to let go. Anger gives you the courage to do what you should have done long ago. Not healthy!

Fixing your failure:

Always work with your boss. Say:

  1. I’ve been covering for someone’s weaknesses.
  2. I thought it would help but it didn’t.
  3. I see how I weakened the team.
  4. I plan to let go. I hope they rise up but they may fail.
  5. Do you have any suggestions?

At this point, the foolishness of hand-holding should be obvious. You blew it.

Five benefits of failure:

Trust: People who “never” fail can’t be trusted. Trust people who fail and own it. Environments where failure is prohibited are filled with deception, posturing and blame.

Growth: Failure points are often growth points.

People who can’t fail can’t grow.

Strength: Working through failure strengthens everyone.

Capacity: Strength from failure expands capacity.

Wisdom: Successful failure makes us wise, even if it’s just learning what doesn’t work.

The only reason to let someone fail is long-term benefit outweighs short-term risk. Fail small.

How do you know when it’s time to let someone fail?

How can leaders help others fail well?

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