Admitting Failure (And The Lessons It Provides) A Key Test Of Leadership Capacity

Beware the executive who can't describe their biggest business failures and who doesn't harbour some emotion about them, whether in the form of profound disappointment, frustration, regret or gratitude, perhaps.

While it may seem counterintuitive or selfishly counterproductive to any executive being interviewed for what could become their next management career opportunity, the collective insights of executive talent masters suggest getting the candidate to open up about their business missteps and what they learned from them - assuming they did - is a critical prerequisite for determining whether the individual is poised for success in a new leadership role.

Experience, is, after all, a great teacher. Imminent business decisions may summon the wisdom of smart manoeuvres that led to past glories, but they must also surface the lessons of poor judgments and outright flubs so they aren't repeated.

Executives unwilling or unable to detail at least one bad business decision during a recruitment interview actually relate volumes about their ego and lack of self-awareness, as do those who find themselves likewise challenged by an inability to spread the praise for excellent outcomes widely.

Of course, the real challenge of failure as set against today's contemporary business pressures is not only to learn from it but also to avoid the loss of energy and confident contemplation that can impinge on sensible decision-making.

In some sense, the lessons of failure are most instructive if leaders retain them in their collective memories, but also forget them just long enough so they don't become obstacles to personal and organisational growth.


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