3 Things You Hate To Hear About Failure


I really enjoy the recent Domino’s commercials, the ones that say several times: “Failure is an option.” Although we can objectively agree with their sentiment (easy to do when staring at pizza on a screen), it’s a lot less easy to accept that fact as true in our own lives. 

How do you view failure? Something to be avoided at all costs? Something to be expected because risks are worth it? Something to learn from and grow from?  Something you beat yourself up about?

One thing that separates great leaders from good leaders is how they view and react to failure. Make no mistake; how they view failure can impact the entire organization they lead. 

Here are 3 things you hate to hear about failure, but that leaders know are true.

1. Failure is necessary for growth.

Some of the most useful innovations were the result of failure or mistakes.  Post-it notes, penicillin, even pacemakers! This is also true interpersonally and in leadership. Sometimes a undesired conflict with a friend or colleague makes us feel as if we’ve failed, when later we see that that confrontation was instrumental for us to discover our own blindspots and how to treat others or lead even better. If we’re not afraid to fail – and even embrace it as necessary – we can surprise ourselves with growth and improvement we never foresaw.

2. Live and learn. 

Even if it produces nothing tangible in the moment, failure should lead us to change and grow.  How a leader handles their own failures or the failures of others will have impact for them and the organization beyond the failure itself – for good or bad. It’s important to have a learning-oriented acceptance to failure. Great leaders ask these questions about failure: What did I/we learn? What was wrong with the thinking or the process that led to the failure? How can I/we improve for the next time? What beneficial change could come from this failure?

3. You are still accountable for your failure.

Having a learning-oriented acceptance of failure, and even embracing it as necessary, does not mean there is no accountability.  Great leaders own their failures and deal with them thoughtfully. If a failure has to do with a character issue or lack of discipline, whether in themselves or in someone under their leadership, a great leader addresses it swiftly and with grace.

So stop being afraid to fail. You will fail many times in this life. What’s important is that you take responsibility for it and think through how you can change and grow from it each time.  Happy failing!

If you enjoyed this blog post, download our article, 5 Steps To Recovering After You've Failed.