There is great “mileage” in failure as it from the moments where we experience setbacks that we may learn the most. Most people have been taught that failure is a bad thing, but in reality it can also be incredibly instructive. While it is essential to remember philosopher George Santayana’s adage, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” it is okay to make the error yourself sometimes — especially if you choose to learn from it.
I am a great baseball fan and so often use metaphors from my favorite sport. Assume you were a major league baseball player who got a base hit every third time at bat BUT struck out the other two appearances at the plate. What happens to you five years after you retire from the game? You would go to the Hall of Fame even though you failed two out of three times…. Strong leaders know that they will fail at times but still acknowledge the “mileage” such setbacks offer. Failure makes you humble, aware, and should fill you with determination for the next “time at the plate”.
With that in mind, here are three reasons why a leader should never fear failure.
It Humbles You
While failure can be bad for your ego, it can also help you reevaluate your current situation. Chances are you aren’t the greatest leader to grace the earth, so it’s good to remain modest. It will make you a better listener, a greater teammate and a more empathetic figure. Leadership is largely about communication, and those who do it best understand that — while confidence is great — an inflated ego can be the biggest roadblock to success.
It Shows You Your Weaknesses
A leader worth following is one who understands his or her own faults. That allows you to entrust people to pick you up where your own natural talents might be lacking. It’s okay to be bad at something, but you still need to be aware of those gaps. How else will you fill them in? By doing this, it also allows you to be more considerate toward others. It will make you more aware and provide new possibilities. After all, most mistakes are teachable moments and opportunities for coaching and mentorship.
It Emboldens You
Failure is a useful tool because a series of rejections or mishaps can help push you forward to the next opportunity. It’s likely that your ideas will be shot down — a lot — throughout your life, but it’s the strong leader who dusts him or herself off and pushes forward. Always carry that misstep, mistake or rejection with you because it’ll make success feel better earned. It’s understandable to feel an emotional low, but never wallow. Find the determination to fight another battle, and another battle after that.
Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran, Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.