Leaders know that the things they do and the people they serve with will not always succeed. They know that their organizations sometimes resist change even when threatened with decline.
Disappointment may lead to feeling like a failure. In a recent blog Seth Godin wrote: “Feeling like a failure has little correlation with actually failing.”
I know the feeling. In my various leadership assignments when at times it seemed that more went wrong than went right, when the annual reports were less than stellar, when personnel performed poorly, and when I didn’t do as well as I would have liked, I felt it.
In leadership as well as life there must be a better way of handling disappointment than feeling like a failure.
Perhaps we are overly influenced by the Vince Lombardi philosophy of competitive athletics – “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
We will never be the best at everything we do. We won’t always win or succeed. Sometimes our best efforts fail.
A few observations about overcoming the feeling of failure –
- There are circumstances beyond our control that affect the success or failure of any position, project or person.
- Feeling the disappointment of failure is not the same as being a failure.
- Failure and success are not the same as winning and losing.
- Metrics are not always, perhaps never, a good measure of success and failure, particularly when outcomes are not measurable.
- It’s not failure when plans, strategies or people don’t work out.
- Admitting that a position is not a good fit or a strategy not a good plan is not failure.
- We need to be careful not to act on our feelings of failure. As the recovery community teaches us: feel—think—act.