Inspired to fail – inspired to succeed

He was defeated for the legislature in ’32. Failed in business in ’33. His sweetheart died in ’35. Had a nervous breakdown in ’36. Defeated in election in ’38. Defeated in nomination for Congress in ’43. Lost renomination for Congress in ’48. Defeated for Senate in ’55. Defeated for Vice President in ’56. Again defeated for US Senate in ’58. Elected President in ’60.

This man was Abraham Lincoln.

A child prodigy shunned by aristocracy. Lived much of his adult life in poverty. Died in his 30s. Buried in a paupers grave.

This man was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Fired by bosses after other workers refused to work with him. Homeless and impoverished throughout his youth. Survived as a poster artist. Rejected from an Arts Academy. Initially rejected as unfit by the army. Never rose above Corporal. Became the leader of his country.

This man was Adolf Hitler.

These are part of the long chain of other inspiring failures. It seems to be really successful, one has to really fail, badly, deeply.

How does failure happen?

Sometimes failure is a result of bad leadership. According to Denny’s “Motivate to Win,” reasons of leadership failures are:

  1. Inability to organize details
  2. Unwillingness to do what they would ask another to do
  3. Expectation of pay for what they know instead of what they do
  4. Fear of competition from others
  5. Lack of creative thinking in setting goals and creating plans
  6. The “I” syndrome
  7. Over-indulgence, destroying endurance and vitality
  8. Disloyalty to colleagues
  9. Leading by instilling fear instead of encouragement
  10. Emphasis of title instead of knowledge and expertise
  11. Failure to face negative reality
  12. Being ultra-positive

Sometimes, it is the change, with intention of improvement, that causes failure, as Kotter elaborates in his “Leading Change, change will not succeed if the leader is:

  1. Allowing to much complacency
  2. Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition
  3. Underestimating the power of vision
  4. Undercommunicating the vision
  5. Permitting obstacles to block the vision
  6. Failing to create short-term wins
  7. Declaring victory too soon
  8. Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture
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