Select Page

Leadership matters.

Perhaps leadership matters most in the midst of failure.

Everyone wants to be a massive success: build a huge platform, grow their attendance, expand their campuses, hire more staff.

Maybe the definitions of success sound a little more postmodern for some. They want to have more dynamically, relationally missional, communitarian, discipleship, ecclesia groups.

Regardless of how you define success, every leader loves the feeling of achieving a stated goal.

But sometimes we don’t achieve the stated goals.

We don’t make budget.

We don’t meet the benchmark.

We have to lose that staff.

We have to close the doors.

We lose our awesome.

Failure happens. When it does, leadership matters.

It’s become something of a buzzword these days to “fail forward.” Somehow the cutsie phrasing still doesn’t take the sting out of failure.

But what if it wasn’t just a catchphrase? What if great leaders could really find ways to move the ball forward even in a failing situation–to generate a different kind of win?

Here are three ways to fail forward:

1) Be open about being wrong.

Failing is hard. Trying to pretend like something isn’t failing is even worse. Great leaders can be honest about failures, and can generate authenticity, empathy, trust, and camaraderie with people in the organization. To be able to communicate openly about what isn’t working in a non-blaming environment can build the kind of gritty, enduring relationships with people that are hard to create when everything is going off without a hitch. Failure is an opportunity for vulnerability, and vulnerability is the linchpin of building trust.

Failure is an opportunity for vulnerability, and vulnerability is the linchpin of building trust. Click To Tweet

2) Uncover the new opportunity.

Politicians say, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” It’s crass but insightful. In every crisis, an opportunity is created. Michael Hyatt wrote about this beautifully. When something or someone fails, an opportunity is created for something different. So when failure happens to you, don’t have eyes for what is falling apart but be actively looking for the new opportunity that’s being created by the break down. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evaluate why things failed. Learn from but don’t linger on failure. See the way forward and seize it.

Learn from but don't linger on failure. Click To Tweet

3) Lower the basket.

I’m terrible at sports. Terrible. Yet even I can make at least a few shots when the basketball goal is lowered to kid-level. It’s possible that the failure you’re experiencing is because the goalpost is too high. It’s okay to have big┬ádreams, but don’t forget that God likes to use small things to magnify His glory. So feel no shame in lowering the goalpost to generate slam dunks. This will inspire your team and create the confidence you need as you slowly raise the basket back up. Failure may show us we need to lower the bar of success.

It's OK to have big dreams, but don't forget that God uses small things to magnify His glory. Click To Tweet

We truly can find ways to fail forward.

What would you add to this list?