Leadership #Fail and Other Fun Lessons

I’m actually better at talking about my lack of success than about my successes. It’s who I am – Christian Asian American woman. I was taught Christians are humble. I was raised in an Asian American home where we spoke and considered community over the individual. As a woman I learned that speaking up meant being labeled as Arrogant. Aggressive. Ambitious, other “A” words and just other words with negative connotations.

But talking about failure gets tricky. It means airing out dirty laundry. It means showing vulnerability and need and weaknesses. It means being honest and accountable.

And in my book it means being a leader.

Sometimes we are to be like the servant girl who twice calls out Peter as one of the disciples. The Apostle Peter, the Rock, denies Christ for a third time, failing to align himself and own his relationship to Jesus.

“Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.” Mark 14:72 TNIV

We’ve all failed miserably, and there are many times I’ve failed and wept. Too many times I’ve wept because I got “caught” in my failure and not quite ready to deal with the consequences and learn from my failures. Finding out I’m human shouldn’t be, but too often is, unnerving.

Next month a group of incredible Asian Pacific Islander women leaders will gather in Los Angeles to learn from one another about Leadership Over the Long Haul. (Registration is still open, to both men and women, and it is going to be an amazing time. Think about it!)

And I have the privilege of speaking on leadership failures and success. Not hypothetical failures or case-study failures. My failures.

Sounds like fun, no? The trick is I have a time limit. The Lord is merciful!

What are some examples of your real-life leadership failures? What did you learn about leadership? About yourself? About God? About others?


  1. Deanne April 27, 2012

    I’ve been thinking a lot about failure these days too. This year I’ve been working at Westmont College in Intercultural Programs, and as my first job out of graduate school, I’ve learned a lot… by failing. By God’s grace, I figured it out early in the year so I could re-align and change, but the value of failure was the best lesson I could have learned. Both failure and reflection were my teachers this year. I could not have one without the other. It mattered to me that in the midst of the failing, redemption was in my grasp. Don’t get me wrong, despair was right around the corner, but reflection helped hold me up a bit. Sometimes as an Asian American, I feel so much shame in my failure, but learning to make friends with failing has helped me to grow something productive from it, rather than sink into the normal set of anxiety and depression that it once called me to. I hope the conference goes well next week! I’ll be sad to miss it. It’s the end of the school year here, and we’re gearing up for graduation. I see it’s being held at my old church Evergreen! I love that community. Many Blessings Kathy!

    • Kathy Khang April 28, 2012

      Amen and amen! You are so right about learning through failing and failure. It’s silly for us to think that anyone could become a strong leader without any hard lessons learned, but our cultural baggage (toxic shame) can cloud our ability to see failure as opportunities. Thanks for reading!


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