How Failure Can Make You A Better Leader

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” — Robert F. Kennedy

Failure is often what leaders fear the most, yet it is often the catalyst for successful leadership and can be used as a powerful tool for reaching great success. Smart leaders are those who use failure to assess their options and to keep digging until their vision is met. The bottom line is, leaders must fail in order to succeed. When Thomas Edison was asked how it felt to fail 1000 times, he replied ‘I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.’

Resilience is a must-have leadership skill

There exists no leader who hasn’t made mistakes or overcome struggles. The most respected leaders are those who demonstrate a willingness to learn from their mistakes. The saying ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’ rings true for modern-day leaders. A leader’s role is rife with challenges, and only a resilient mind is able to push through barriers with an unwavering determination. For leaders and the organisations they head to succeed in uncertain and tumultuous times, they must be resilient. An inability to bounce back after setbacks creates a stressful working environment for everyone.

Failure helps leaders to reach their true potential

Strong leaders are not afraid to fail, they embrace failure and the lessons they learn from it. They develop a fearless attitude towards failure and work hard to instil this attitude in their team. For leaders to reach their full potential, to make the impossible possible, they simply cannot fear failure. Achieving hefty goals always involves an element of risk taking. Even if you don’t succeed, you will learn a great deal about what works, what’s possible, your strengths and the strengths of your team, and you’ll reignite your motivation for the next challenge. Failure forces leaders to acknowledge their shortcomings and to evaluate what is in need of improvement.

Remember, success is wonderful, but failure is the true path to wisdom. Each step a leader takes, no matter how positive or negative the result, will equip them with the ability to make better decisions going forward.

Failure = motivation

Failure makes us work harder, better, and faster. It strengths our desire for success and leads to greater achievements. Successful leaders view each mishap as an opportunity to do better next time. They understand that without failure, true success is not possible. They allow the drive that stems from not wanting to repeat the same mistake again to fuel their motivation. They use every failure as an opportunity to fine tune their strategies until they are working in their and the organisations favour. They don’t dwell on their mistakes or allow them to drain their energy.

Playing it safe and flying below the radar won’t lead to greatness, so fail your way to success! If you haven’t failed it’s likely you haven’t tried hard enough, you haven’t dared to step outside your comfort zone. It is not possible to realise our ambitions without stepping outside our comfort zone.

Tania Watson is the founder of Creative Coaching and an executive coach, organisational consultant and leadership specialist. Creative Coaching is a successful company dedicated to the development of senior leaders in organisations through one to one coaching, intact team development and group facilitation. If you or someone from your organisation would like to have a no obligation conversation about how Creative Coaching may be able to help, please email Tania directly at

Executive Coach | Organisational Development Consultant | Leadership Specialist | Champion of People and Their Potential. Follow me for #leadership tips.