7 Ways to Fail and Maintain Credibility

Failing well enhances leadership credibility; failing poorly destroys it.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” George Bernard Shaw

Failures are inevitable. You’ll fail because of:

  1. Unrealistic goals
  2. Misappropriated resources
  3. Changing conditions and circumstances
  4. Lack of skill
  5. Poor preparation
  6. Inadequate or inaccurate information
  7. Wrong assumptions

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” Henry C. Link

How to fail well

  1. Don’t overreact when you fail. It makes you look weak and insecure.
  2. Don’t pretend everything’s OK. That makes you look disconnected and out of touch.
  3. Take responsibility don’t blame. People respect responsible leaders.
  4. Say, “I was wrong.”
  5. Accept your limitations while committing to improving them. No one expects you to know everything. They do expect you to improve.
  6. Say, “Next time.” It helps as long as it’s not over used. “Next time we’ll seek more input.”
  7. Maintain positivity. Getting down on yourself and others won’t take you where you want to go. Leaders press through failure into the future.

“What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.” Mary Pickford

Success buffers failure

  1. You’re done if you don’t frequently get the job done.
  2. Keep successes in the spotlight by highlighting the contributions others make.
  3. Focus on progress while addressing problems. “Are we making progress?”
  4. Build and fuel momentum. Momentum makes failures seem smaller.

Failures are inevitable and seldom final.

However, nothing sustains your credibility if you consistently fail. Therefore, you’ll go farther if you adopt a “failure philosophy” that keeps you and your organization leaning into the future rather than stuck in the past.

What suggestions can you offer for failing well?