That link between Failure & Success

Anil Sharma


“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”


Well spoken words by the war time leader of Britain, Winston Churchill - as he led the nation against the aggressive onslaughts of WWII.


His radio addresses and quotes kept the morale high for servicemen and citizens alike, but it would be incorrect to think that mere words could enthuse masses. The key word here is enthusiasm that is generated internally from passion of your purpose.




It is the sighting of a common purpose and one that arches above the needs of our individual self – that has the power to unite people. In the WWII situation the purpose had crystallised to stand up for the democratic rights of people and stand against the fascist forces. The inner surge of enthusiasm kept people going, led by an enthusiastic leadership from failure to failure and ultimately to success.


Failure events


With every failure, you land at cross-roads with 2 choices. Those that contemplate on their deep sense of purpose can continue to draw from their innermost generated enthusiasm to fuel their next actions. These folks evaluate failure as a stepping stone and try to understand the ‘lesson’ to improvise the next approach on a higher stepping stone.


Those without an identification of their purpose tend to see the failure as ‘Why does this happen to me?’ from the platform of ‘entitlement’. They seek comfort in drawing on the ‘victim’ syndrome and further ignore the lesson that could have been learnt. Failure to learn the lesson sets them on a repeat course of being presented with the same situation again and again – till such time they’ve learnt the lesson!


Passion through purpose


Go through the personal stories of successful people in business, politics, sports and one can’t help notice the journey to success is filled with stories of failures. Great leaders like Henry Ford, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, Charlie Chaplin and Gandhi - they have lived a life of failed moments and dark hours to reach the success they are known for. Multiple failings with extreme controversies accompanied them all through their way but they exhibited the grit to go through on their overarching purpose and get to where they envisioned.


As Henry Ford said, “Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement”. Every mistake big or small holds the power to carve a new path to success. Even the first stepping stone is helpful in connecting you to the shrine as important is the last step that is actually connected at the altar.


Common mistakes by leaders in business


Leadership is exhibited across all levels of life. One starts with personal leadership first and then is propelled into positions of responsibility as the ability is sensed by those around you. Managers in business get promoted routinely to positions of leadership as they continue to achieve individually and gain experience in their job roles. It is at this stage that the leadership requirement changes from being an individual competent star to thriving on the growth of your teams.

Many a manager routinely commit this mistake and fail to understand why they hit the proverbial glass ceiling.


One can go through leadership development trainings and then hope to self-apply the learnings into the job function.  Progressive companies continue to invest in some form of learning and development for their high potentials but then only a few manage to discern the real impact of their investments.


True story


Consider the story of John (name changed) – Sales Manager in a leading consumer durables company:


His line manager over the years appraised him as both an achiever and a bully. John naturally expected he would get the department head role on the next appraisal due. But surprise – surprise, he was told at the end of appraisal meeting that John was not in consideration on the succession plan for the GM position. This because the board perceived his foul temperament could harm the departments prospects!


That damaging comment from the boss does indicate that many top-level leaders remain unconvinced, some of their employees will correct their career limiting behaviors and behavioral mistakes. Only a select few learn from mistakes by seeking feedback and leadership coaching to make positive and lasting changes in their leadership behaviors.


Common mistakes lead to failure


The most common mistakes I’ve seen business leaders make are passing judgment on others, overusing emotions, empowering your own ego, ineffective communication and withholding information. These habits and mistakes emanating from ingrained habits are not only ineffective but also go unrecognized to the leader himself. It leads to confounding behavior and shattering thoughts while causing their career to ruin.


Teacher, not undertaker


As said by Vernon Law, experiences are teachers that give you test’s and then the lessons.  “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker”.


There are moments when career failures take you down on your knees. At moments like these – one can rise again, by seeking professional help, imbibe new learning's and drawing upon your inner passion.


An executive coach can help with identifying the common leadership mistakes and develop desired behaviors.


Your own sense of purpose will help fuel the passion for you to remain enthusiastic over failures, learn effective lessons and make a new beginning.