Kent Ingle: Failure isn't fatal in leading -- it's essential

No one steps into a leadership role wanting to fail. In fact, failure may be what leaders work the hardest to combat. Many people assume there is no returning from failure. It is our greatest fear and most dreaded scenario. We highlight our wins, but we keep all of our failures out of view.

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But the truth is, there is no succeeding and there is no winning without failing. There is no truly excellent leader who hasn’t at one time faced failure. As leaders, we work so hard to avoid the image of having failed that we never allow ourselves to actually experience it. And we often don’t allow anyone else to know about our failures and therefore we never learn or grow from them.

Not every project will take off, not every new system will succeed, and not every season will be a win. It is not a question of whether or not we will face failure – failures and disappointments are a part of life for everyone. The real questions is: How will we choose to react to failure when it comes our way?

There is no succeeding and there is no winning without failing.

Failure is one of life’s crossroads. It is an opportunity to pause and reflect. It is a gateway to a new season.

If we can take the time and have the humility to view it as such, failure is an opportunity to sharpen our skills and clarify our vision as leaders. It is a chance to increase our ability to lead more effectively and to improve our businesses and organizations.

In many cases, failure can even be an advantage if we allow it to be. As Winston Churchill once allegedly said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Here are six effective ways to use moments of failure to strengthen your leadership:

1. Remind yourself why you set out to accomplish your goal in the first place.

Don’t ever allow failure to cause you to lose the momentum that first drove you to pursue it. Remain driven in your pursuit.

2. Consider the steps that led you to where you are now.

Rather than mull in pity over the situation, critically consider the decisions and choices that led you to where you are currently. Take time to reflect on the process.

3. Evaluate what you would do differently next time.

Don’t agonize over it, but decide for yourself the values and wisdom that will lead your decisions in the future. This is your moment of learning.

4. Determine whether or not something is worth trying again.

Maybe this is a passion project you are set on seeing through, or maybe it’s not the best use of your time. Decide whether or not it is worth giving it another shot.

5. Share the experience with a mentor.

Often during and after our moments of failure, our vantage point can be very narrow. Confide in someone you respect in your field and hear his or her point of view.

6. Refocus and start again.

Never allow a failure to stop you in your tracks or deter you from your ultimate goal. Take these moments as the learning opportunity they are meant to be, and, if you decide to try again, keep moving forward.

Failures can be some of the most humbling moments we face in life, but in viewing them as opportunities to grow, they will only increase our wisdom and potential as leaders.

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