Leadership Means … Failing

By Rebecca Twitchell

We hear this all the time.  It's nothing new.  Yes, we learn from our failures.  But when is the last time you really thought about what failing means as a leader?


 A huge characteristic of leadership is being a risk taker.  You don't have to have an expensive MBA to take risks.  You have to have the guts, the determination and the ability to take them--especially if the first effort failed.  Maybe there's a 50/50 chance the risk will work in your favor.  Or perhaps there's only a 10 percent chance of success.  Regardless, the more risks you take, the more you discover where the strengths and weaknesses are in your company.  And you may not want to hear this one, but for the leader who can take it--the more risks you take, the faster you may know if you are fit for the role or not.


 If there are no successes or failures within your company, there is a good chance you haven't been making important decisions.  You haven't set clear goals.  You haven't created a plan for the future of your company.  In fact, your company may actually be stagnant.  Making those decisions, while often scary and worrisome, is the very thing that will give you the answers.  And if you made a decision that turned out to be one that didn't take you where you wanted to go?  Figure out what to do next.  Move on and move forward.


While employees, customers and investors expect that you will be the best, they also know that to be the best, you have to know what it means to be the worst.  If you are able to embrace failure, learn from it and make your company even stronger, you have now just gained the trust of those who follow your lead.  If you give up at the first smell of failure, you can wave that trust goodbye.  And while you're at it, be sure you're being honest.   There is nothing wrong with admitting failure--and taking blame even.  No one's perfect.  Not every leader can do it all according to plan.  It just isn't possible.  Be upfront, tackle the issue and move on from it.  People trust others who can admit their mistakes.


 Think about it.  If you turned a failure around and made the necessary changes in order to succeed--that success can be so much bigger in the long run.  If you are successful on the first attempt, that's great--high fives.  But what if on a scale of 1-10 that success is only at a 1?  And you merely scraped that success up because of a small thing--like acquiring a business only because no one else wanted it.  What if you lost the deal because there were two other heavy hitters in the running?  Think about how much more you learned about your own company from failing at that acquisition when you do your post-mortem.  Now imagine how great the next business will be that you do finally acquire (and what that means for your company).  Sweet, sweet success.

In short, it's okay to fail.  Sometimes, it's actually better to fail.  But don't get us wrong, we don't advocate that you brush off failures.  That would be a failure on our part.  We do, however, encourage you to embrace them, learn from them and be the best you can be.  You will be a stronger leader, your employees will be better poised for succession and your company will come out in the lead.

Rebecca Twitchell

Cheers to you and all of your failures in 2012!


Rebecca Twitchell


half full – moving you forward