Leadership After Failure


Failure. It’s not something that any business wants to go through, but unfortunately it happens more often than not. Perhaps the failure was a long time coming, or maybe things went awry overnight. Regardless of the timing, it can be exceedingly difficult for a leader to rally the troops, so to speak, in the face of or after failure. So how does a good leader effectively recover from a failure? Big or small, any failure can be the downfall of company morale and performance without proper steering from the leadership team. Here are some ways leaders can “check” themselves when it comes time to stage a comeback.

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Humility is Key

Humility goes a long way in the workplace. A leader with a strong sense of humility is not a pushover. Rather, they are a mature individual who knows their limits and when to admit wrongdoing. Having a strong  sense of humility does not come naturally to some. However, after a failure — let’s say a business has had a messy PR job after dealing with a class-action lawsuit — it is highly beneficial for a leader to be able to shoulder those troubles and lead the team.

After a lawsuit, morale can be down and public trust is even lower. A leader who has the proper humility to take responsibility for his business dealings will more quickly earn the respect of those who work for him. In contrast, the leader who refuses to admit any fault, but instead throws blame on the plaintiffs of the lawsuit, is only painting himself into a metaphorical corner.

Lead by Example

After going through a failure or a down period, it’s up to the leadership team to lead the charge. Even in the most stressful situations, it’s important for the leader to maintain composure and treat his employees with respect. Of course, a level of transparency should also be maintained so as not to break (or, in some cases, to rebuild) trust with employees.A leader can lead by example by championing new ideas to help boost public perception, or by encouraging employees to participate in morale-building activities or projects. A leader who isn’t above rolling up his sleeves and helping his employees dig out of a hole will be much more respected than the one who sits in the office barking orders all day.

Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Failure, after all, is a normal part of life. In fact, some would argue that failure actually sets some up for success better than, well, success. It’s okay to have a problem — what matters more is how one recovers from it. So don’t be afraid of it. Open the dialogue about the failure or the problem. Some employees may have meaningful insights into why this happened, or what could be done differently going forward. Having an open and honest policy within the workplace will help employees feel valued, increasing their level of trust and loyalty to the business. And this is key. To recover from any mishap requires all hands on deck, starting with leadership.