Leadership Qualities for 2013: Success Through Failure
By: Lawrence G. Weinzimmer, co-author of The Wisdom of Failure: How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying The Price (Jossey-Bass, 2012)
Strong revenue masks all kinds of mistakes. However the recent recession, when revenue declined across companies and industries, created a new paradigm: to become an effective leader, it is not only about doing the “right” things; it is also about avoiding the “wrong” things.
The road isn’t always smooth and the sky isn’t always blue. When challenges present themselves, lessons gleaned from previous failures can help leaders avoid making the same mistake twice or making the wrong decisions.
Not surprisingly, there is a common theme among industry’s greatest leaders — their most important lessons have come from trial-and-error. Unfortunately, many of us don’t pursue the trial because we are fearful of making error.
Jim Owens, former CEO of Caterpillar Inc., told us we actually learn more from our failures than we do from our success. He states that our most important lessons as leaders come from our toughest losses.
Making mistakes — or failing — are part of taking healthy risk. They provide us with new ways of thinking and give us new insights into how we can improve as leaders.
Real failure doesn’t come from making mistakes; it comes from avoiding errors at all possible costs, from fear to take risks, and from the inability to grow. Being mistake free does not lead to success.
In 2013, leadership will be defined as making “original” mistakes.
We all make mistakes, it is part of being human. But leaders who can learn from previous mistakes, their own as well as mistakes from others, can proactively avoid making the same mistakes over-and-over again.
Our research has found that “learning organizations” — those that can create a company culture where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities — will experience more creativity and business innovation — and employees at all levels will have more confidence.
Laurence G. Weinzimmer (Peoria, IL), co-author of The Wisdom of Failure: How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying The Price (Jossey-Bass, 2012), is a professor of strategic management at Bradley University. He works with numerous Fortune 500 companies — including GM, Goodyear, 3M, Caterpillar, Pennzoil, and Coors — and many medium-sized companies on issues relating to strategy, culture and growth. He has been featured on numerous business talk shows including FNN, CNN, the Business Morning Show and on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. He is the author of Fast Growth: How to Attain It, How to Sustain It (Kaplan Business, 2000).