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6 Common Leadership Mistakes When Overcoming Failure

Leaders must know how to face it, and most importantly, how to encourage and inspire despite it.

Fuckup Team
January 20, 2023
Common Leadership Mistakes When Overcoming Failure

The workforce is searching for true moral leaders

Old-school companies are dead… Nah, not really, but new generations are starting to add value to them by cheerleading new ways to drive a team. The workforce is searching for true moral leaders defined by their actions and consistency, not by their job titles.

In our opinion, leaders have two main characteristics: they truly listen, and they lead by example. A powerful starting point is to have leaders show the way so that early adopters can help drive a community with new beliefs and habits.

Failure is, and always will be unavoidable, universal, and unexpected. Leaders must know how to face it, and most importantly, how to encourage and inspire despite it. So, what are the most common leadership mistakes while trying to overcome failure in an organization?

1. Not leading by example

Facilitating sessions or meetings to make them personal, fun, laid-back, and straightforward allows us to create a special vibe that keeps the ego under control. This approach caters to the biggest need of many companies: changing their internal cultures. 

But, as we know well, we can’t just change the organizational culture by sending a memo. A work environment is made by why, what, and how people do things on a day-to-day basis.

The only way to lead is by example and being a facilitator. Setting the example means being vulnerable, and showing team members that you too can get yourself into the nitty-gritty, fuck up, and not sweep failures under the rug but learn from them instead.

2. Avoiding vulnerability

Being a facilitator means switching gears from the old-school idea of an enlightened and invincible leader that always knows what to do, to that of an inclusive, vulnerable leader that listens, truly empowers, and fosters learning instead of blaming.

Vulnerability in a leader makes everything from conversations to projects more transparent, fun, and innovative also helps a lot. Explore being 1% more vulnerable each week and letting others do that too.

3. Holding a negative mindset around failure

Failure proves to be a great tool for allowing deeper connections and creating insights because it breaks the paradigms of traditional hierarchy. So, leaders should also see it as a great opportunity to move forward, teach valuable lessons, and open insightful conversations among a team.

We created Fuckup Nights as a continuous event series because we know that you don’t change your behaviors by attending one event or listening to one talk, we need to turn the new actions into habits. Also, we decided not to focus on famous or “successful” speakers because we strive for inclusivity and building communities.

4. Avoiding failure

If your definition of failure is negative and it’s hard for you to control how you react to difficulties, it makes sense that you try to avoid failure as it will bring hardship and pain. Just be conscious of the valuable lessons you’ll be missing!

Our take at Fuckup Inc is to minimize social expectations and focus on how we react to difficult situations. This practice is which ultimately builds up resiliency and brings us closer to happiness and freedom.

Creating safe spaces to share failure stories has become so impactful for our global movement: people gain perspective, learn, build resiliency, and build deeper connections.

5. Disregarding creativity

Failure is a key ingredient of creativity and innovation. In order to be creative, we must be willing to take risks. The first thing we have to accept, in order to discover inspiring ideas,  is that many of those ideas will not work or will be discarded. But those ideas will be as important as the innovative ones because they will create inertia in a team to speak up freely.

One good practice is to take time to discuss every “bad” idea, no matter how crazy or ridiculous it may seem since this discussion will serve as a practice and confidence builder for when we get to the not-so-bad ideas or even great ones.  

Let’s make sure that everyone on the team has a sit at the table and most importantly, the confidence to get their thoughts on the table, as collective intelligence will naturally emerge.

6. Avoiding difficult conversations

This takes several shapes and forms such as not asking hard questions, not looking at all angles, and not trying to find a flaw in an idea or product. The best ally for boundless optimism is enthusiastic skepticism, that way, creativity, and iteration can be combined. 

Whenever someone detects something seemingly unworkable, they immediately begin to fix it as a team. Skepticism is not the enemy of innovation, it unlocks the potential of any idea. Discovering the flaws of a project does not always mean killing it, it usually means pivoting the idea so that it takes a more productive form.

Long story short…

Anyone who aspires to become a leader should get rid of all paradigms, always question the why behind any idea, and strive to be a servant leader.

The Failure Program is how we have facilitated hundreds of private events for companies around the world, creating value for our partners whilst collaborating in their cultural shift. But that’s not all, we have a range of workshops and e-learning courses along with our very own Failure Survey so you can make decisions based on data and apply your learnings from day one.

We believe that cultural and behavioral changes need to come both from the bottom-up and by structural design. This applies everywhere from a political institution to a company, to a social group.

Bring The Failure Program to your organization, and improve employee engagement and retention to increase productivity and spark innovation. Just fill out this form now!


Rob O’Donnell LinkedIn

The New York Times


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6 Common Leadership Mistakes When Overcoming Failure


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