How to Be Wrong – Origins of Lead Change Group Part 6

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

Have you ever choked? I’m not talking about dinner. Choking is a performance analogy. I’ve been fortunate to play Pebble Beach Golf Links. In the golf world, it’s about as close as you can get to the center of the universe. The course is beautiful and often so is the weather. Incredible.

When you spend more money than you ever thought you would to go to the greatest course in the world, you want to play your best. Or at least I do. But the more “best” I want to do the more tense I become; the more sensitive I am to my mistakes and the more important every detail. Every stroke is one stroke closer to finishing my round with few (or no) good shots. Each bad shot is one more shot on the wrong side of the scale. The more tense I become the worse I do. It took a serious mental adjustment for me to have my time at Pebble Beach be some of the greatest time of my golf life.

After I started Lead Change and we started having all of the excitement of being a virtual leadership community on the cutting edge of Twitter and LinkedIn, I started choking. It seemed like everything I did was wrong. Some people suggested that I do things a particular way. What was my plan? How would the group sustain itself? What would our product be? What was our plan for getting members or income?

Almost everything we did failed to meet my expectations. We had a great first tweet-chat but a not-so-good second one. And I realized I didn’t like the idea of doing one every week, or even every month. We had a BlogTalkRadio show but that got old after a while too. And I thought more than 30 people would listen.

We even had a meeting in February 2010, but in the end only just enough people registered that I didn’t lose money on the event. After it was over I was exhausted and I felt overwhelmed at all of the things I could think of that needed to be done.

Truth be told, often, very often, I feel wrong. Few things we attempted met my expectations. While many encouraged, I wondered about all the energy I had spent. Was it wasted?

Godin’s chapter, How to Be Wrong, really didn’t help so much in the short run. It simply reminded me why Lead Change was so important to me and why I couldn’t let the fear of failure paralyze me.

tribes_01-210x300From the book:

“The secret of being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong!

“The secret is being willing to be wrong.

“The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.

“The only thing that makes people and organizations great is their willingness to be not great along the way. The desire to fail on the way to reaching a bigger goal is the untold secret of success.”

Godin goes on to say that there is no easy answer. There is no formula for creating a successful tribe. It isn’t easy.

I dislike uncertainty and being wrong. I don’t like to look stupid. I don’t like the idea of telling my grandkids how I wasted my self-employment or tons of money.

But I know what I like less. I will not do nothing. Too many of us have become doers of nothing instead of doers of something. I can’t guarantee success and neither can Godin. But I can guarantee failure – simply do nothing.

As I’ve said elsewhere, we don’t need leaders to lead same. We need people to lead change. We need people who accept the idea that the only real failure is failure to act. Everything else is feedback, input, lesson material, or practice.

“The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there.” Seth Godin, Tribes page 108.

Leadership is learned, not taught. Lead Change is a place where people can self-develop. Trial without error is the stuff of fables. If you want a place to be wrong as you develop your leadership voice, sharpen your ideas and practice your craft, well, you found it. What are you waiting for?

This is the sixth part of a series on the origins of the Lead Change Group based on one of the key books that inspired me to take action: Tribes by Seth Godin. For links to all the posts, check out this page.
Photo 02-11-12 @ bahri altay iStockPhoto

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About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jennifer V. Miller  |  02 Feb 2013  |  Reply


Thank you for your candor about the fitful starts to the Lead Change Group. As someone who has been there (almost) from the start, I can tell you this: it didn’t look like “failure” to me. It looked like fearlessly trying something new. And keeping with it. And not blaming anybody when things didn’t go as planned. You have been a fantastic leader on this journey, Mike. Thank you.

Mike Henry  |  02 Feb 2013  |  Reply

Thanks for the kind words. Lead Change is so “not” what most people think a leadership non-profit should be, I’m constantly challenged to embrace things that are “not” what I’d expect either. I’m fortunate to have met so many great folks and seen so many inspiring things happen from true character-based leaders. It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks for being an integral part. Mike…

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