The list of iconic business people who’ve overcome failure is a highly impressive pantheon of true leaders.
You’ve no doubt heard about Steve Jobs making an epic corporate comeback when the company he founded sacked him. Did you know that Bill Gates founded a road measuring device company – called Traf-O-Rama – that was measurably unsuccessful?
A failed political campaign and sea of rejection slips for her second book inspired Arianna Huffington to launch global news and blog website The Huffington Post.
Nor is recovering from major setbacks a modern phenomenon. Walt Disney’s list of failures is the stuff of legend, some of which left him reportedly eating dog food to survive, having a flop for his first character (Oswald the rabbit) and being accused of being uncreative!
Making failure a learning exercise
There’s a lot to be said for the adage that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.
Resilient leadership involves being ready to take calculated risks and seize spontaneous opportunities. Even in the age of data analytics, there will be times when such decisions and actions prove at best unfruitful, and at worst a costly dead end.
One key attribute of authentic leaders is that they have intuitive control over their role, responsibilities, teams and themselves! They’re ready to act quickly when things are going in the wrong direction – and confidence to be transparent about their contribution.
From this, the individual leader can grow their own perceptions, knowledge and experience, and inspire others to do the same.
Other attributes of resilient leadership
Recovering quickly and learning from errors or setbacks can mean quickly putting aside embarrassment or even shame to battle forwards for new successes. That’s not the same as not taking the blame. Having the courage to admit to mistakes and oversights is important!
Not least as it encourages your team to be more open and honest about things that are failing, so line managers can nip problems in the bud.
Wallowing in self-pity – or worse still casting around for someone (or something) else to point the finger at – is the opposite of strong, insightful leadership!
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos did not have it all easy. The first year of selling toys (as well as books), he bought over 100 million toys for the Christmas ‘rush’ and was left with 50% of these after the festive season (most of which he gave away to free up warehouse space). Looks like that and other initial faux pas didn’t hold him back for long!
Clearly the best leaders are not perfect, nor do they always have unblemished corporate credentials. What they do have, is leadership competencies to offset failure, and the resilience to come back even stronger.