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  • James Lord

"I like to watch people when they fail"

While watching a recent keynote speaker address from Derek Jeter, former shortstop for the New York Yankees, he spoke about how he identifies leadership qualities in others. “I like to watch people when they fail,” he said. Do they sneak out the back of the clubhouse to avoid the press, or do they take accountability for their performance results? Do they own their results, or do they blame others? How do they show up in the locker room behind closed doors? Do they celebrate their teammates or sulk in the corner by themselves?

The truth is that nobody is perfect. We’re all going to experience failure. We may not have the added pressure of facing a locker room full of reporters after our successes or failures but make no mistake; people will be watching. Your team may be watching you. Your competitors may be watching you. Your children may be watching you. You may not be playing for the New York Yankees, but that doesn’t make your leadership position any less important.

Being the type of leader who can admit they’ve made a mistake means that you can quickly learn from those mistakes. Instead, if you’re the type of leader who is quick to blame others or the circumstances you faced, then it’s likely that any opportunity to learn from that situation will be lost. You’re not looking for what you could have done differently if you’re blaming others or blaming the circumstances.

I’ve seen the power of this not only in business but also with family. There is tremendous power in being able to admit to your spouse or to your children when you’ve made a mistake. You’re teaching them that things will be okay when they, too, make mistakes. You’re opening up the opportunity for there to be communication and the ability to ask, learn and grow rather than creating an environment where you’re always defensive or blaming others.

As team captain, Jeter knew his role was to help others on the team learn, grow and improve constantly. As leaders, we have that same responsibility with the teams we lead or the children we raise. We need to be thoughtfully watching others when they fail. We need to make sure we’re using those opportunities to be coaching and helpful. If we see people blaming others or avoiding responsibility – we must act so we can change those behaviors before they become habits. It’s always about people. Are we making people better, or are we ignoring those opportunities to act? Do we admit when we make mistakes, or do we own the results, look for the lesson or things we can learn, and come out swinging for the fences tomorrow?

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