Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
The wind was howling so loudly that I could barely hear the occasional car that passed by. It was raining very heavily. Muddy water clung to my pants as I made each step. "I have to go on!" I said to myself.
As I reached school at 8.05am, I noticed that the hall was almost empty. Only four of us were present.The rain was petering out and the sky brightening, but I felt a shadow enveloping me. By 8.30am, two more members had arrived but we were still missing 29 members.
My head started to ache and I could almost feel rage and frustration churning in my stomach. It had been my four-year dream to form and lead the school choral speaking team. However, now that I had formed a team, it did not seem as if I was doing a good job of leading them. "What kind of leader is unable to get even a third of his team to attend a practice session?" I thought to myself. I had failed as a leader.
By 8.35am, I could take no more. I told the others that they could go home and left without another word. On my way home, I could think of nothing but of how I had failed to gather my team for the session. At first, I blamed my teammates for choosing to ignore our practice schedule.
By the time I reached home, I was blaming myself and considering resigning from my position as team leader and conductor. However, luck was on my side because, just as I was about to get myself a glass of water, I noticed a bookmark sticking out of a book on the dining table. "Superior form of leadership: to inspire and not to force," it said.
Reading this quote made me realise something: I had forced my teammates to come for practice. Although I may have not done it in the literal sense, I had not given them a reason to come to practice. All I had done was to arrange an official practice session. In short, I did not inspire them.
I was never exceptional at speeches. So, I knew that to inspire my teammates; I had to gain their trust. The next day was a school day. I seized this opportunity and made an announcement requesting all my teammates to gather at the canteen during recess. It was to their surprise that I did not plan on actually practising choral speaking. Instead, I said, "Let's have lunch together!" While everyone was eating, I did my best to make friends with as many members as possible. I made this a routine for the next five days. Towards the end of the fourth day, I could see that the team had begun to bond.
On the fifth day, I decided that we should practise. I was frankly surprised to see that most of the members had really strong voices. At the end of the half-hour practice, I thought that it was about time I addressed the whole team. While I have forgotten most of what I said that day, I vividly remember the last sentence: "Give me your commitment and in return I promise that I will lead us to be one of the top three teams in the district!" I also informed them that we would be having another practice session the coming Saturday. On Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only was the entire team present but everyone was also very enthusiastic.
Looking back, I am actually thankful that my teammates did not turn up for practice on the 6th of July 2012. It was that failure that taught me what it truly meant to be a leader. Since then, I have always held to the principle that a leader should not force rather inspire. Oh, and did I mention that we got into the top 3?
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