Every successful leader has their fair share of ups and downs, and challenges that they’ve experienced early on in their career. No one gets it perfect the first time. But unfortunately, especially when relatively new to the world of leadership and management, we often put pressure on ourselves to be perfect and to get everything right. We fear that our superiors, stakeholders, or our teams will perceive us as incapable, and that we’ll lose our credibility, influence, and authority.
The reality is that career failure, instead of diminishing you, actually boosts your image and helps you to develop leadership skills that you wouldn’t have been able to develop otherwise. It matures you and enriches your leadership journey.
But to learn the lessons that your embarrassing failures teach you and truly benefit from them, there are two keywords you need to remember: accountability and perspective.
Accountability means recognising your actions and the relationship they have with the results. It also implies that you own where you have made mistakes instead of putting the blame on external circumstances or stakeholders. As a leader, it’s often easier to own your success than it is to own where you have failed. But when you take responsibility for your actions, you demonstrate that you are a genuine leader that can be trusted, and people will value your transparency.
In addition to self-awareness and accountability, it’s important to adjust your perspective. Instead of viewing your failures as such, why not rephrase them to “areas of improvement?”
Picture yourself as a work in progress. Therefore, no matter how embarrassing you’re career mistake has been, if you view it from the perspective of an “area of improvement,” you will be patient with yourself in your development journey and be more confident in who you are as a leader.
Now let’s explore five ways that your “areas of improvement” make you a better leader:
Builds Analytical Skills
Mistakes that you’ve made previously in your career help you build your analytical skills, because with the right perspective, you start to pull apart and analyze what went wrong and each action you took that led to the overall negative outcome. This level of thinking polishes your critical thinking skills which are vital to any leadership role you currently work in or pursue in the future, because in the world of business you will need to be using your analytical reasoning skills all the time.
Helps You Lead With Empathy
When you’ve made mistakes in your career, you are more keen and sensitive to being more empathetic, and leading with compassion. You are not so hard on others and you’ll have more patience and understanding when developing those who may have less experience. A crucial aspect of effective leadership is your ability to develop your team and new hires, and to empower and mentor them to climb the ladder to fulfil their career potential. Through your patience and understanding you can boost their confidence in their roles.
Makes You Approachable
Reflecting on your mistakes and learning from them helps others view you as approachable and humble, a very admirable trait for a leader. This fosters a positive work environment, and people are more likely to trust your judgment and recommend you to others.
Strengthens Your Personal Brand
We hardly ever imagine that failures or “areas of improvement” can have a positive impact on our personal branding. But it turns out that being vulnerable and utilizing the power of storytelling, where you share your experiences, your leadership journey, and the lessons you’ve learned along the way, opens up a plethora of career opportunities. You could use these experiences and lessons learned the hard way to launch side hustles such as coaching, public speaking, authoring books, and providing mentorship and consulting services.
Inspires Teams With A Growth Mindset
The example that we set as leaders has a direct correlation on team culture and the ethos and values that they reflect. Because we naturally lead by example, when you admit your mistakes, welcome constructive critical feedback, and acknowledge that you are currently acting on the feedback given, you are teaching a powerful lesson to your team of the importance of maintaining a growth mindset and self-accountability. This will help with boosting their performance as they recognize that they are responsible for their actions, and this self awareness will drive their individual and collective growth.
So, the next time you’re attempted to feel embarrassed about a mistake you’ve made for fear of being viewed as incapable, or react self defensively when given feedback from a source you least expected, remember that this is all part of your leadership journey. Being a leader isn’t always going to be glamorous. It’s not always about the good; it’s about the bad and the ugly. Acknowledge and embrace your “ugly” and turn it into fuel for your success.