If You’re Not Failing, You’re Not Making the Right Decisions

700 466 David DeWolf

Recently one of my senior leaders, who I’ll call George, was responsible for an initiative that didn’t exactly turn out like we all hoped. In fact, the results were less than impressive, though it wasn’t a total failure.

George was the first to take responsibility. He held himself accountable, stood up, and said, “I take responsibility and I will fix this issue.”

But along with that, George also wanted to make sure that he was held accountable in a more serious way for the actions that were taken and for the lack of results. He was looking for some sort of punishment.

My response? Leaders don’t avoid adversity or even failure. One of the signs of a great leader is how they handle that adversity and how they move forward.

George exemplified phenomenal leadership throughout this process despite the initial failing. In fact, because of a series of events, I reinforced the fact that he had taken the right steps and made the right decisions throughout the process.

Here are four questions to ask about your leadership in the face of failure:

1. Do you take responsibility and hold yourself accountable?

A great leader will hold themselves accountable. They judge themselves based on results, NOT effort.

2. Do you give credit and acknowledge others when they succeed?

In times of success, great leaders will give credit to their team. But in times of failure, they’re the first ones to stand up and take responsibility for the results.

3. Do you NOT allow the same mistake to be made twice?

Great leaders provide transparency into reality, pushing their teams to accomplish things that are greater than the sum of the parts. They take accountability for the failures of the organization and responsibility for making sure that they don’t happen again. You’ll find them giving praise where it’s due and taking on the responsibility for the team. A true leader judges their own performance based on results but doesn’t expect perfection from themselves.

4. Do you trust others to do their jobs without micromanaging to make sure they aren’t letting you down?

Sometimes, those who we’re leading will fail us. Having perfect performance is not a sign of a good leader. In fact, if I see perfect performance, I’m concerned that something’s not right, that either we’re not challenging ourselves to move fast enough or we’re not being honest about our performance or there’s something that just hasn’t been discovered yet.

What signs of great leadership have you seen? What challenges do you face as a leader?