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When we experience failure in leadership, we must have a strong rebuttal to the sinister voice in our head that says, “I must not be a good leader.” Otherwise, we stop leading boldly. Here is how I punch back at the voices of doubt.

failure in leadership

While some never doubt themselves and preside over failed teams and organizations, others recoil when failures pile on. Neither response is healthy. Healthy leaders face failure with humility, remembering that they are not all-knowing and all-capable, thus they remain focused on personal growth. They also face failure with weariness that if they are not careful, that if they don’t have a strategy of evasion, a failure can torpedo their will to continue.

If you are facing failure today, I want to you to consider applying the following techniques.


When failure comes, I remind myself of my previous leadership successes. Stop and take a pen and paper, and write down what you did that was amazing. Keep that list hanging in front of you if you have to. Review it daily if you need to. The goal is to remind yourself that you are capable. Many times the weight of defeat and worry over what may happen cripples our reasoning and hijacks our thoughts, and all we think about is, “How could I have done this?” Or, “I obviously I cannot do this.”


When there is an area I am failing and I cannot seem to find the right tool to solve it, I try to transition away from that situation. When it is a person I cannot seem to reach or connect with, I look for another leader in my organization who can reach him or her. I do this because trying the same thing over and over is simply not a good strategy to turn things into a win—and it definitely is not good for our psyche.  This must not be an effort to forego challenging situations or punt difficult problems to others.


“I am not good at this yet” invokes the attitude that I am getting better. I am on a growth journey. I may not be able to win now, but with time I will win. I may surrender this battle this time, but give me time, and when this comes my way again, I will win it. How do I know that? Because I do these growth practices daily. I have a history of getting better as a result of my commitment to personal growth. The YET, saves the day!


The last defense from the onslaught of the negative voices is, “I am not good at this, and that’s okay.” I don’t have to be good at everything to be an effective leader. And I certainly don’t have to be an effective leader to be a worthy human being. No leader is perfect in all areas. This must not become an excuse not to improve oneself—to be okay with areas of imperfection because “no one is perfect.” Put leadership and accomplishment in eternal perspective. God loves you, and hopefully your family and close friends love you, regardless of your failures. So, it’s okay.

Leadership is hard. Failure will come. Even big failures will come. Effective leaders must know how to deal with failure if they are to not lose heart and to continue fighting and pressing forward.

I pray you forge ahead boldly in the face of any daunting challenges you face.

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature