This is such a common thought in the Army. Some miniscule mistake is going to be the thing that ends it all.
I’ve thought that before, and I know most others have.
When I actually think back on it, I can’t really think of any specific instances where this was true. In fact, the opposite is mostly true. I see plenty of leaders making small mistakes and things working out okay.
A mistake is made, there may be some consequence (or not), and learning occurs (hopefully).
Of course, there is a difference between small mistakes (forgetting a flight jacket) and catastrophic mistakes – the types of things that gets people hurt or killed, due to negligence.
A lot of mental energy is wasted in the Army worrying about small mistakes and their potential to be the thing that derails a career. The more I reflect on it though, the more I realize I haven’t actually seen it much.
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Good article over at CJO on empathy and understanding for leaders.
The first thing I learned from this experience is that unless you’ve personally experienced a problem, it is unlikely you fully understand the issue. We can listen, we can learn, and we can empathize, but we’ll never have the same perspective as someone who has been on the receiving end of racism, sexual harassment and assault, or any of the other serious issues facing our formations.