“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
It may be the height of unoriginality to begin with these words, yet here we go again. After all, quotations only become clichés when they speak eternal truths. And few expressions have proven as enduring as Dickens’ portrayal of an era of great contradictions.
As we celebrate the spirit of leadership another year, our country faces crises on multiple fronts. Our house remains divided, our political leaders paralyzed. We’ve seen our financial investments tank, and our emotional tanks run dry. We are tired.
And frankly, we’re scared.
We have a hard time accepting the idea that our great nation could be in decline. For my entire life, failure has never been an option for the United States of America. And yet, the 21st century has proven difficult.
With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, we lost one of the great American innovators. You would be hard-pressed to invent a story that better embodies the American dream. For that reason, we’ve spilled a lot of ink over his legacy—what it all means—and the notion that it’s okay to fail comes up again and again.
“We have found a common theme among industry’s greatest leaders: their most important lessons have come from trial and error. Unfortunately, many of us don’t pursue the trial because we are fearful of making an error.” In this very issue, Dr. Larry Weinzimmer speaks to this topic—in a piece written before Jobs’ passing. I think this is not coincidence.
Overcoming the fear of failure is one of the most important lessons for any leader. A person’s true character makes itself known in times of crisis, and perhaps the greatest exemplification of leadership is the ability to learn from our mistakes.
Every November, we renew our commitment to the young leaders of central Illinois, and their accomplishments never cease to inspire. They remind us of our greatness—that the future is unwritten, that we need not give up, that we need not accept decline. Let us not forget that at one time, not so long ago, Jobs’ beloved Apple nearly went bankrupt. “Every failure teaches a man something, if he will learn,” wrote Dickens.
Congratulations to the 2011 class of 40 Leaders Under Forty, and thanks to our sponsors, who make it all possible. God bless. iBi