The Value Of Failure In Leadership

Value of failure in leadership

This article has worked GPALabs writers.Organizations that strive are organizations that fail. Failure is a vital iteration in discovery, an enabler for learning. You can’t learn to ride a bike without falling. Leaders who create value and long term growth, like the CEOs of Amazon, Netflix, and Coca-Cola, are those who understand how to embrace failure as an insight to transform, innovate, and succeed.

Long term success is rooted in innovation, adhering to status-quo is a recipe for irrelevance. For example, as Reeves and Charme share, even though Polaroid was the pioneer in digital photography, by remaining in their comfort zone using it in instant photography they were butchered by competition (64). On the other hand, companies that experiment have higher chances of success. Amazon is recognized as innovative and successful, yet has had its share of failure like the Fire Phone. Coca-Cola failed famously with the “New Coke” yet is still leading the way today as a leader in the global beverage market and a marketing power-house. 

Innovation is no accident, but rather a structured approach to finding unmet consumer needs, an iterative obsession of proposing ideas and trying them out. Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, would view great metrics as a potential symptom of complacency, rather than a reason for celebration. A fail-safe culture is crucial to foster an innovative environment.  It is key for a leader to provide space to test and learn, and allow to rapidly scale successful pilots. 

To take an organization from average to exceptional leaders need to create and foster space for failure. To evolve, we must innovate, we must test, learn, and therefore fail. As Straitfeld shares in his interview of Jeff Bezos “If you’re going to take bold bets, they’re going to be experiments, and if they’re experiments, you don’t know ahead of time if they’re going to work.”