When you look at some of the most successful businesses, you look at them through the lens of what they did right. For example, Apple may have started out as a computer hardware and software manufacturer, but through a series of successful product offering expansions (notably, the iPod, iPhone and iPad), the firm has established itself as the most prominent consumer electronic giant in the world and Apple executives and management are viewed as being knowledgeable business leaders because of these savvy moves.
It is easy to praise these evident successes, but at the same time, it is crucial not to overlook failures. It is easy to get into the mindset that, in order to be successful, everything the business does must be successful. Failure is not an option, or so many business people think.
However, this tendency to embrace success and fear failure can actually be a huge detriment to helping businesses progress. Sometimes, the most successful businesses in the world are those that endure failure. The mark of an excellent leader is not how much he or she succeeds, but how well this individual can recover from a failure and transition to the next project and continually push for the next success.
Going back to the Apple example, the company has had several failures over the years – MacWorld pointed to the Macintosh TV (an attempt to bridge the gap between televisions and computers), the Pippin (Apple's response to Sony's PlayStation videogame hardware) and the Apple USB Mouse (an unwieldy computer mouse shaped like a hockey puck) as innovations that bombed in the market. Yet Apple's leaders charged on, accepted the failures and moved on to the next triumph.
Learning and recovering from failure: A critical leader attribute
Experiencing failure, particularly if it is a project that a leader oversaw directly, is never enjoyable. In fact, it is easy for many business leaders to become risk averse in fear of failure and potentially being punished for it, whether it be through loss of clout, demotions or termination. However, this in and of itself is also bad because it leads to complacency and stagnation.
Business leaders need to learn how to take risks, but also how to deal with failure and move on. This will help them drive change throughout their businesses and bolster progression and innovation.
"You'll struggle to rebound from setbacks if you have illogical beliefs about failure," explained Forbes contributor Amy Morin. "If you convince yourself that even minor failures are life-altering, horrible incidents, you may struggle to move forward. Believing 'failure is terrible,' may cause you to fall into a slump where one failure leads to another failure."
At the end of the day, it all comes down to confidence. Business leaders must be able maintain a belief in their own talents and skills, while also ensuring that others also believe in their ideas as well. This will help senior managers and project leaders achieve more success.