Whoops, I Did It Again: The Hilarious (and Educational) Journey of Learning from Mistakes in Leadership

Whoops, I Did It Again: The Hilarious (and Educational) Journey of Learning from Mistakes in Leadership

Let’s talk about something that I’m sure we’ve all experienced: the difference between learning from theory, practice, and mistakes (Boyd & Markarian, 2011; Hattie, 2009). As Brene Brown, a renowned author and research professor, has said, “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage” (Brown, 2010, p. 34). And that couldn’t be more true when it comes to leadership.

When it comes to theory, we can learn a lot from textbooks and lectures (Hattie, 2009). We can gain a solid understanding of concepts and principles, but theory can only take us so far. We need to put that knowledge into practice to truly understand how it works in the real world.

Practice is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where we get to see firsthand how theory plays out in practice (Boyd & Markarian, 2011). We can learn a lot from our successes in practice, but we also need to embrace our mistakes.

Yes, you heard me right: embrace your mistakes! Mistakes are how we often learn the most (Boyd & Markarian, 2011; Hattie, 2009). We can learn from what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what we can do differently in the future. As education psychologist Lev Vygotsky said, “A child who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 116). And as leaders, we need to model this growth mindset for our staff and students.

So let’s embrace vulnerability as a strength, and use it to create more open and supportive learning environments for ourselves and our communities. Let’s remember that theory and practice are important, but mistakes are where we often learn the most. Let’s embrace our mistakes and use them as opportunities for growth and learning.

Our call to action is this: let’s create a culture where mistakes are not only accepted, but celebrated as opportunities for growth and learning. Let’s encourage our staff and students to take risks, try new things, and not be afraid of making mistakes. And let’s model this growth mindset ourselves, by being open about our own mistakes and using them as opportunities for reflection and growth.

In the wise words of Britney Spears, “Oops, I did it again” (Spears, 2000). But this time, let’s do it with a growth mindset and a willingness to learn from our mistakes!



Boyd, V. M., & Markarian, W. G. (2011). The role of mistakes and partial understanding in learning computer algorithms. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(3), 561–574. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023869

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Hazelden Publishing.

Spears, B. (2000). Oops!… I Did It Again [Recorded by Britney Spears]. On Oops!… I Did It Again [Album]. Jive.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.

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