John F Kennedy as the 35th President had barely spent a 100 days in the white house when he got a new proposal from the CIA and his advisors. Invasion of Cuba to overthrow the communist government under Fidel Castro. There were strong arguments from one side to do it and opposing arguments on the other side. Kennedy was not experienced or confident enough to make the decision. When his advisors pushed he reluctantly agreed.

The invasion turned out to be a disaster. The US trained troops were defeated in 3 days. They never reached Havana, the capital but were captured on the beach. The USA and a young president were humiliated.

What did the president do ?

Kennedy stop up and took responsibility. He said he was accountable and responsible for the decision no matter who’s fault it was in operations or in other areas.

Leaders own the failure. No matter why it happened it is the leader’s job to say “I am responsible, hold me accountable, I will fix it”

The leader protects the team and ensures lessons are learnt so that they are not repeated again.

The leader can re organize the team and change the ways of working after the failure.

The leader can change the strategy to win after the failure.

The leader cannot blame.

The leader cannot deflect.

The leader cannot pass the buck.

The leader must stand in front of everyone and own the failure. 

A sports captain must go to the podium to explain why the team lost and what they will do better next time.

A political leader must answer the questions from the press on the failure in the elections.

A business leader must own the results, good bad and ugly and stand up for them.

Failure belongs to the leader.

Success belongs to the team.

This is the burden and the privilege of great leadership

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