The Success of Failure

Leslie Kossoff

One of the most important lessons any executive can learn is the power of failure.

Failure, in too many countries and cultures, is seen as an ending.  That's wrong.  When used to its best effect, failure is one of the greatest learning devices given to anyone who is trying to do more.  Be more.  Create more.

It doesn't matter how large or small your organization, whether you are public or private sector, the industry you're in or whether you're a start-up or a legacy.  There's always something to learn - and failure is a great teacher.

Making that point one hundred years ago was President Theodore Roosevelt in a speech he gave at the Sorbonne in Paris.  The most poignant part of that speech was:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Courage comes in so many different forms but, at its foundation, it is about integrity and perseverance in the face of all the challenges and opportunities that come your way.

People wonder why, in the face of so many media-driven executive and corporate horror stories, I'm always so pro-executive.  That's easy. 

It's because, throughout my career, I've had the great opportunity to see executives of organizations - large and small, across sectors, industries and nations - who make a difference.  Who have the courage to fail - and the wisdom, integrity and perseverance to build again and further.  To create success.

They're not super-human.  Just excellent men and women who see more - and are willing to do and be more for themselves and their organizations.

That is leadership at its best.

Leslie Kossoff , author of Creating Quality series of Executive Field Guides and Executive Thinking
Copyright 2010, author retains ownership. All rights reserved.

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