There are no perfect leaders, which means failures and mistakes are inevitable. Mistakes don't define us. How we learn from them does. I have held leadership positions in various capacities throughout most of my life, and none of them were easy nor did they require the same cookie-cutter approach.
Everyone remembers where they were on 9-11. I had completed basic Navy SEAL training, or BUD/s, and just returned to San Diego from jump school. I had two days before starting advanced SEAL training, or SEAL Qualification Training (SQT). The next morning when I woke up, everything had changed. The whole premise behind being in special operations would be different from that day forward. It would require a different mindset and different leadership approach.
A couple years later my team, SEAL Team 5, was deployed as the first SEAL task unit to operate in Iraq in early 2003. It was time to put our training to the test. We performed many capture or kill missions with great success. But we also made many mistakes both strategic and tactical. Luckily, on that tour, those mistakes did not translate to the loss of anyone on our team.
After a few tours, I left the Teams, attended grad school and became an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur you start with an idea. A business plan. And assuming you become successful, you build a team. Then you have much more than just an idea. You have people who look to you for guidance, inspiration and that critical shared sense of purpose.
I had to learn a whole new style of leadership. One that required greater humility, the ability to listen, to learn and to develop more mature level of emotional intelligence. This didn't happen overnight obviously. I often exhibited the traits you find on those lists of "what not to do" as a leader. Transparent feedback from the team became a crucial part of my personal and professional development. And trust me, it has not always been easy to digest.
I had to remind myself frequently that failing at something does not mean you are a failure. Using 360 degree reviews and after action reviews help identify where improvements need to be made both within the team and ourselves. And the faster we accept what needs to change and then take decisive action, the faster we improve. This is something I often touch on in my motivational leadership keynote presentations and training.
The team quickly forgets the little mistakes and shortcomings when they visibly see you making attempts to always be better.