A lot has been written about failure and the benefits of learning from it. Yet, much of the Corporate world treats failure negatively and, in most cases, has no approach to deal with it constructively. In this article, we take a quick look at why it is necessary to acknowledge failure and how one could turn it into success.
When Apple failed
In 1985, supported by John Sculley, the Apple Board fired Steve Jobs. Losing the founding member put the company in a difficult situation during the 90s. There was no vision to steer Apple, let alone shape an entire industry. Though Jobs did return to Apple, it was only after Sculley left. Despite being a successful Leader with PepsiCo, Sculley failed with Apple because he had no idea about Computers and did not retain Jobs, who had.
The Impact of Leadership Failures
As people move into leadership positions or unfamiliar territory, they face situations that they are ill-equipped to handle and may often fail. There is then a tendency to compare themselves with their peers who could seem self-assured and able to resolve challenging situations.
Malcolm Gladwell refers to such comparisons as Relative Deprivations in his book David and Goliath.
The comparison and/or inability to share their failure with anyone builds stress in Leaders. Chronic stress could lead to depression. In many instances, Neurotransmitters such as Serotonin that help induce wellness are reduced. Organizations that don’t detect the signs could suffer consequences and their investment in the leader(s) lost.
Benefits of Bridging the Gap
It is evident that while the industry speaks a lot about failure, many Organizations don’t have a positive approach to handle it practically on the ground.
So, let us look at a couple of instances where acknowledging and handling failure can help Organizations.
Resilient Leadership – In this fast moving world, Leaders realize that they need to exercise, have a good diet and change their lifestyle to stay sane. At the same time, they need emotional support to deal with failures. Much of this comes from having a Coach they can confide in to help them navigate the failure minefield, without stressing out. Such an investment may be essential to help Organizations realize the full potential of a Leader.
Positive Organization Environment – One of our Leadership Workshops for Mid-Level Managers had people holding back until they heard the failure story from a Senior Management professional. Inspired, the floodgates opened as the Managers shared their failures and walked away with an approach to resolve their challenges at the end of the workshop. The open culture drove down negative connotations of failure. Suddenly, people were finding answers to questions that they had suppressed within them for a long time.
Imagine if Sculley had a Coach or Organizations had an environment that approached failure in a positive vein on the ground (read appraisals) and rewarded learnings from them, how would that world look? Such an approach is a treatise on its own!