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How Great Leaders Use Failure to Succeed

Mar 13, 2016 | Leadership

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“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” — Confucius

Failure can be life’s greatest teacher, as is evidenced by some of the most successful people in the world.

Steve Jobs was fired seven years into building Apple. Colonel Sanders’s famous secret chicken recipe was rejected more than 1,000 times before a restaurant accepted it. J.K. Rowling had rejection letters from 12 publishers before one took a chance on Harry Potter. Walt Disney was fired by an editor for lacking imagination and no original thought.

Every, single one of them will say they later succeeded because of their failure. Think about that from your own perspective. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made? How have those mistakes helped you get where you are today?

Whether you’re starting out in your journey, you’re on a second or third career, or you are already living the American dream, you will experience failure. I’m not clairvoyant. It’s just the way life works.

And, truthfully, if you don’t have any sort of failure, you’re not trying hard enough nor taking enough risk. That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to fail. Not only is it part of the learning process, it helps you create a destiny unheard of for most.

Here are some ways to maintain your sanity when you’re in the middle of The Great Failure.

How Great Leaders Overcome Failure

They take responsibility. Great leaders take responsibility for bad results.

“The first rule of leadership: Everything is your fault.” – A Bug’s Life

But they don’t stop there. They find solutions to solve the problem, and review and analyze results or lack thereof. They use that information to draw a road map and plan future actions.

They have the confidence. The ability to recover from failure is a trait successful leaders share. Great leaders don’t yell, bark orders, or try to save the day in panic. They remain calm because they know they can handle the crisis and find a way to lead their team out of it.

They adapt, adjust, and keep going. Most people are so focused on lamenting they failed, they don’t take the emotion out and analyze what happened from an objective standpoint. They linger in regret and unwillingly accept defeat.

Not great leaders.

Great leaders analyze what happened and why. They figure out where they went wrong. They look at what needs to be done to overcome and solve the problem.

Great leaders are solution-oriented, and they won’t give up until finding one.

They are committed to doing great things. What separates average leaders from exceptional ones, is the ability to look at what seems like an insurmountable obstacle, and figure out how to turn it around. They know, with time on their side, it will be a great lesson. With this attitude, they are able to overcome any roadblock and give their best.

There will be times when you want to give up, when your struggles seem useless and never-ending. Success is so far away you don’t even see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Just keep in mind failure, as with everything in life, is not forever. It’s a step in your journey. Learn as much as you can from the experience, use the above tips, and keep going.

And remember what Winston Churchill said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”  

Now go be great!

Image Credit: Shutterstock


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