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5 Ways Failure Helps You Succeed As A Leader

Published December 24, 2014

It sucks to fail. True story. Nobody likes it. I certainly don’t like it. Every time I have an idea that doesn’t move the organization forward, or worse yet, creates a setback I have that little voice in my head that says “See. I told you this wouldn’t work.” But it’s in those moments that we are closest to success personally and professionally if we just pay attention. We just need to learn the lessons from failure.
  1. Failure can breed determination. We’ve all heard the story of Thomas Edison and his struggles with creating the light bulb. When asked about his repeated failure, Edison replied “I have not failed 1000 times. I have successfully discovered 1000 ways to NOT make a light bulb. As cliche as that may sound, it’s true. Many times our failures can lead to our greatest successes.
  2. Failure keeps us humble. There’s nothing worse than being around a leader who’s “always right”. You know the one. The person in the office who is so worried about looking good that they don’t create or ship anything meaningful. A little failure gives us the ability to dig deeper, to truly make a difference, and to teach that lesson to someone else down the road.
  3. Failure makes us human. Nobody’s perfect. I wrote a post recently about how vulnerability is important for every leader to exhibit. When we are honest about where we’ve fallen short, or are willing to share our failures, we open up a whole new level of dialogue with our peers and the folks that report to us. We become authentic when we share our failures and make our successes even more powerful teaching moments.
  4. Failure opens new doors. Sometimes a failed idea or concept leads to breakthrough thinking. It’s important to understand why something didn’t work and in your analysis you find a different perspective to approach your challenge, and that approach could change the world.
  5. Failure isn’t fatal. One of my favorite movies is Elizabethtown (2005). Directed by Cameron Crowe (and seen by only my wife and I seemingly!) this film chronicles the story of Drew Baylor (portrayed by Orlando Bloom) and his creation of a new shoe that is a huge flop in the marketplace. The journey he goes on to find redemption is a journey through his life and understanding what is important and what’s not. In the end he may have failed at what he created, but he succeeded in getting his life back which led to future success.
We don’t always get it right as leaders, but we always work hard to get it right. We need to learn from our failures and take the appropriate time to reflect, remember and reset. Use your failure to fuel your success. Then move on and get back to work creating something meaningful. The world needs you.