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Reframing Failure

progress Aug 23, 2022

In the words of Kenny Rogers, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.”

Often times, as leaders, when we see things fading or dying, we take it personally.

As leaders we can see failure as just that... failure. And when we do…the negative thought patterns ensue.

We start talking to ourselves-- 

  • “I cannot fail or else….”
  • “Have I missed my calling?”
  • “Am I in over my head?”

If we are honest, ego leads us, and we do not want anyone to see our weakness.

Perhaps we play the pride card with false humility: “I am no good. Nobody wants to follow me.”

Negative thought patterns like this can haunt leaders.


Get used to it

Newsflash, leaders….. you are going to fail. You are going to look like you don’t know what you are doing at times. In some circumstances, you are going to have to learn the hard way.

So how can we break these negative leadership cycles?

The first thing we need to do is to address some common misperceptions in our own leadership patterns and how we approach success and failure.

Two words: fail forward.

How can we learn from our failures in order to build to the next level of success?

I often hear this statement, “healthy things grow.” True, but there is also a season for once healthy things to die.

The place of failure (and even the death of old projects and even some former "dream"s of ours)  is a unique space. Ponder it with me-- 

  • This is where resurrection and transformation occurs.
  • This is where something new is born and imagined.

That is, many times old thing need to die (read: we need to fail) so that new things can come alive (read: so we can succeed at something better).


If this goes away, something new can come alive

Transformative leadership looks like…. regeneration that transforms culture, allows people to grow, and takes on the next big challenge. You know people that are very comfortable because their business is doing well. If we are not careful, we will accept “health” and we will stop growing.

Transformation occurs when we ask the hard questions of ourselves and our organization.

  • What are we willing to give up?
  • What are we willing to let die in the short term for a long term gain?

It's important to continually look at what we do through these lenses. 

Here's why: Who else will ask these questions if you don't?

As leaders, our job, our mission is to “look around the corner.” When “looking around the corner” we should assess internal and external cultural trends, regularly looking at our performance trends at comparing them to years prior, and praying about what is next.

Do yourself a favor.

Get a rhythm that you are evaluating your organization. Be willing to look at what could die in order for something new to grow in its place. If not, when things do slow down, you will be playing catch up to try and salvage what is left from your growth patterns.

And sometimes, many times, those things need to go away so that something better can come in its place...


Written by Josh Chumley, one of the coaches at CourageToLead.



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