[Strategy] Leadership Through Failure

If you look for it, failure is heralded in many, many corners of the Internet.

However, outside of specific areas on the web that focus on entrepreneurial ventures, start-up culture, or high tech, hard charging companies, the failure of organizational leaders is almost never heralded.

This is because failure is often personalized in ways that success is generalized. In many sectors of the economy, employees may feel as though they are punished in light of company failures with lowered salaries, delayed promotions, no raises and being treated as if their work productivity and years of effort are worthless. And, with all of the political talk about income inequality, CEO compensation rates and escalating corporate profits and stock buy backs, they can be forgiven for thinking that something is amiss with failure.

But, for organizational leaders at the managerial level and above, failure is not seen as a leadership competency, because, much like when NASA decided to go to the moon, failure is not an option.

What’s the way around this?

Realize that failure is an option—the issue with many leaders is that the same confidence that allows them to lead, also blinds them to the potential for a project, a company, an idea or an innovation to fail. This state of “confidence as a blinder” can lead to hubris and perceptions of arrogance, which are really shields for the great fear—that of failure.  For organizational leaders, the realization is that fear should be danced with, not avoided, accommodated or ignored.

Get help dancing with fear—fear is at the core of many responses that organization leaders take to conflict scenarios. Many organizational leaders choose to avoid, attack or accommodate rather than to figure out ways to advance engagement in healthy ways. Choosing those alternate paths would go a long way to building and maintaining healthy organizational cultures that will be antifragile, courageous and inspiring in developing their leaders and their leadership. Getting outside help through training and consulting is a must in this area.

Talk about failures, but don’t embellish them—instead of running away from failures when they happen, organizational leaders should be trained to embrace those failures as part of the business development curve and as the growth curve. Embellishing failures leads to the rampant pornography of failure stories that abound across the Internet. Talking about failures while also draining the emotion from their consequences is tricky, but changing the conversation around them is the first step in that direction.

Failure at scale is an organizational bad dream for many leaders.

But, the reality is that failure will happen. But failures are not to be confused with organizational dips and setbacks. For many leaders though, knowing the difference is critical to developing, training and advancing new leaders.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
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