How Resilience Can Make or Break a Leader

By • on December 30, 2010

Jack Welch, in his extraordinary book “Winning” notes resilience as one of the most important characteristics a leader can have: “The fourth characteristic [of senior leadership] is heavy-duty resilience. Every leader makes mistakes, every leader stumbles and falls. The question with a senior-level leader is, does she learn from her mistakes, regroup, and then get going again with renewed speed, conviction and confidence.

Leaders encourage resilience in their teams by nurturing them through the recognition of failures and by encouraging them to build new and more successful habits in terms of failure. The level of your achievements in life is directly proportional to your level of failure. If you don’t believe me, simply stand in the center of a busy airport and consider how many times the Wright Brothers did not get the plane off the ground! Yet they continued to try until they prevailed.

The greater your failure, the greater your potential in life is. Failure is the price we pay to achieve the success and progress we enjoy in life. It is important as a leader to know that no matter how many times you fail, you are not a failure. Failure does not define you. What you do with failure creates those defining moments that enrich you as a leader.

Changing our failure mind-set assures us that while we cannot avoid fear, we can learn from it. Reflecting on our experience from a new vantage point allows us to break down failure into specific elements, which can then be dissected and analyzed, helping us to determine the specific root cause of the failure.

Success is not reserved for special people–nor is failure. The only definitive difference between achievers and those who struggle is how they approach, handle, and perceive their failures.

As leaders, our job is to keep our goals rooted in reality, but we must also embrace the understanding and opportunities that failure brings. That will indeed make our teams and our missions soar.