I recently shared dinner with a dear friend who was about to embark on a new adventure. She alternated between bouts of excitement and nervousness, possessing the natural joy that comes from stretching outside your comfort zone, coupled with the sudden pang of uncertainty.
Naysayers and provocateurs cling to that uncertainty and over inflate dread to make you second guess yourself and bring your lofty goals down to their level. Those with wanderlust and unconditional love, discount the nerves and excitedly celebrate with you and share effortless support.
Despite my aspirations, I am not perfect and cowardly played both roles. Admittedly, I was acting overprotective; a trait usually grounded in good intentions, but seldom expressed well. I had convinced myself to be devil’s advocate to stir the pot, challenge assumptions, and validate her convictions — none of which were any of my business, nor did I have any right to do. To the other extreme, I did share in her enthusiasm and marveled over the bravery, talent, intelligence and grit she had to pursue her dreams and enhance her knowledge. I would be a hypocrite if I were not supportive. How could I do anything but applaud? We playfully argued points and counterpoints. I had complete faith in her ability to be successful in any endeavor, AND I had sadness around her desire to leave what is for what could be.
My heart soared, and all disagreements vanished when she finally said, “Let me fail.”
It was not a request for permission, nor a premonition. It was simply, a firm statement and a beautiful expression that summed up what I believe to be powerful leadership.
You must always allow people to develop and expand their capacity, pursue their interests, and support their dreams. If you do not, they will leave you and never return. If you do, they may still leave you, but they will find ways to express gratitude and share their newfound knowledge with you in ways you never imagined.
Letting people fail is about autonomy, trust, and faith. During those times when your paths share in the journey, be a strong leader. Be confident, secure, and respect the needs of others to forge their own way. Allow people the space to do extraordinary things on their terms, while still supporting the bigger vision. Never stand in the way of someone’s personal development.
When someone demonstrates leadership by his or her willingness to take risks and face failure with their eyes wide open; honor them. They are taking ownership of their decisions and actions. If you fight them, you lose. If you show love and support, you both win, regardless of any success or failure.
Besides, anyone who says, “let me fail,” most assuredly will not fail in anything that matters, because they already have a winning attitude and are willing to take action.
Be the kind of leader who fosters that environment and you and those you encounter will thrive.
Also published on Medium.