Risk and Failure in Leadership

Leaders need room to risk and room to fail.  Todd Heistand writes well here on the leadership culture he's trying to create in his church:  We embrace creativity, innovation and risk for the sake of the gospel. 

One of the values we have held onto since our inception has been creating a culture of innovation, experimentation and risk taking. We believe God has gifted us to be creative and that he invites us to be that way with how we expresses our witness as a congregation. You don’t have to look very far to see how this has been expressed (Art Shows, Fashion Shows, We meet in a warehouse, etc). Seth Godin once said,"If your organization requires success before commitment, it will have neither.” What he is saying here is that there is an element of risk that is required for an organization (and I would argue, the gospel) to move forward. Of course, we don't just risk for risk's sake. We take risks when they seem missionally helpful and don't go against our core commitments (theologically and practically). It’s amazing how quickly people want to seek safety when faced with uncertainty. If you don’t set this up as a value early on and intentionally, you will always lean back into safety. Keeping this value a value is harder and harder the older you get and more established are.

We must learn to embrace “failed” projects and ideas as opportunities for growth.

In a culture of creativity and innovation, failure is not only inevitable, it is required. In an innovative environment there must be room to fail or innovation will be squashed and creativity will be stifled. For every iPod or iPhone there is a Apple Newton (Apple’s attempt at a PDA in 1993), Apple Pippin (apple’s foray into the video game console market - not to be confused with Scottie Pippen) and the Apple G4 Cube (a boxy computer that never sold). Never heard of those? That’s the point. Apple, a company that is a cultural icon of innovation and creativity, has had some major failures in its time. Some of the greatest lessons and learnings come from failed experiments. Often, failed projects, experiments, etc are good tutors for redefining our mission and vision by reminding us what is important.

  • Read the entire article, "Missional Leadership Culture."