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The Value of Failure in Leadership Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 17th, 2020


In leadership or management positions, people encounter various challenges in the endeavor to achieve organizational goals and objectives. Although most leaders fear the prospective of failing, research indicates that failure entails a crucial stepping-stone to achieving one’s objectives. Failure helps an individual to identify the areas that need rectification or improvement for success. Furthermore, apart from strengthening the perspectives and visions of a leader, setbacks provide an opportunity to evaluate the manner in which a person leads.

Two ways in which I can use failure in my life to improve my vision as a leader

I can use failure to initiate various measures towards improving my vision as a leader. For example, I can use failure to venture into creativity and innovativeness. In most cases, the majority of people fail to become innovative due to the fear of failure. However, failing to embrace creativity and innovativeness hinders a leader from embracing the changing environment (Phillips & Gully, 2012). People, organizations, and institutions that fail to embrace change fail because they make decisions that do not match with the current trends (DuBrin, 2013).

As a leader, failure can help in identifying new ventures that can help to improve my vision. For example, the failure of a product in the market signifies my failure as the leader of an organization under which the product is produced and marketed. However, the failure helps to identify new ways of improving the product for it to sell in the market. As a leader, failure prompts me to implement creative ways to identify what went wrong with the product.

For example, the product could have failed due to higher selling prices as compared to the available substitutes. The high price can be attributed to the cost of production that arises from the use of obsolete technology in the production. In most cases, obsolete technology leads to the production of low-quality goods and high capacity of defective goods due to the improper use of the raw materials (DuBrin, 2013). Furthermore, the underutilization of the plant’s production capacity contributes to an increment in the cost of production. Such insufficiencies can be corrected through the application of innovative methods of production that are cheap and efficient (Drucker, 2004).

Furthermore, I can use creative ways to improve the packaging of the products. For example, I can use additional attractive colors on the packaging materials to make the product appealing to customers. According to research, failure prompts leaders to implement innovative ways to seize prospects, which were not seen initially (Phillips & Gully, 2012).

Moreover, failing as a leader can help me to identify the traits and principles that I failed to apply in the course of executing my duties. Most leaders fail due to their insufficient knowledge, especially in new and emerging trends in a given environment. For example, the failure to know the responsibilities assigned to the subordinates can hinder me from achieving my vision as a leader. Knowledge entails a crucial trait for a leader to achieve his or her vision (DuBrin, 2013).

Failing to learn from experienced people can contribute to a leader ignoring the standards of work, which are produced by the subordinates. Such a move leads to the production of substandard goods, hence undermining the performance of both the leader and his/her subordinates. Poor performance in an organization prompts a leader to review his/her commitment to fulfilling the set goals and objectives (Hacker & Tammy, 2010).

In addition, my setbacks will prompt me to review the decisions that led to my failure. Reviewing the decisions allows one to consider the factors that led to the problems, hence the ability to make better choices compared to the former decisions. Failure contributes to the consideration of an individual’s technical and tactical proficiency (Hacker & Tammy, 2010). Such a principle helps a leader to learn a variety of tactics to execute duties and responsibilities efficiently (DuBrin, 2013).

Traits and characteristics of transformational leaders

Leaders should possess certain features that will help in developing organizations into consistent pacesetters in the industry of operation through innovativeness (DuBrin, 2013). However, transformational leaders possess traits that contribute to the overall growth of an organization. According to the research, transformational leaders focus on effecting revolutionary changes in business through their dedication to the vision of the company (Hacker & Tammy, 2010).

Transformational leaders highlight traits of idealized influence through instilling trust, loyalty, respect, and charismatic behavior into their subordinates. Transformational leaders serve as role models to their subordinates; hence, the subordinates are bound to follow and respect decisions made by such leaders. Leaders assume the responsibility of motivating their followers to improve their performance (DuBrin, 2013).

However, transformational leaders inspire their followers through an inspirational stimulus. The leaders motivate subordinates to embrace new ideas and goals to improve the performance of an organization. Furthermore, such leaders align personal and organizational goals and objectives in a bid to improve the lives of the employees. In addition, such a move contributes to the integration of the employees into the culture of the organization, hence encouraging them to fulfill a shared vision (Hacker & Tammy, 2010).

Transformational leaders are intellectual-oriented and they work toward changing the organization’s system of values and beliefs. In such a way, the leaders create awareness amongst the subordinates concerning the challenges that organizations encounter from time to time (Drucker, 2004). Additionally, transformational leaders possess the trait of individualized consideration, and thus they consider their subordinates as whole individuals. Therefore, the leaders consider the employees’ talents and skills prior to assigning them responsibilities. Such a move ensures that employees indulge in duties that they can perform best DuBrin, 2013).

Transformational leaders respond to failure through unique ways in relation to their traits. The application of an outstanding response contributes to the improvement of a company’s performance (Hacker & Tammy, 2010). Furthermore, a leader improves the performance of an organization through utilizing the behavior of his/her subordinates in line with the required standard to improve the company’s performance (Hacker & Tammy, 2010).

After failure, transformational leaders apply different methods to change the behavior of their employees. For example, the leaders begin by recognizing the needs and concerns of the individual employees. Such a move contributes to aligning the individual needs of employees to the goals and objectives of a company (Hacker & Tammy, 2010). In such an initiative, employees feel appreciated as they form part of the organization, and thus they work to improve their image and that of the company (DuBrin, 2013). Furthermore, leaders work toward boosting the employees’ confidence through private congratulatory notes, praise, and public recognition. The motivation encourages employees to seek mentoring coupled with discouraging the fear of engaging in innovation for the fear of failure.

Furthermore, a transformational leader works toward building a positive image of an organization through changing the beliefs and status quo in the workplace (DuBrin, 2013). In such a move, the leader examines the company’s current culture and implements various changes to empower employees. In cases of failure, such leaders show high levels of optimism by initiating teamwork to stimulate positive performance (Hacker & Tammy, 2010).

How failure is an integral part of life that contributes to leadership effectiveness

In life, people make various forms of investments and decisions from time to time. Although some investments and decisions succeed, others fail. However, failure serves as an avenue to rewarding opportunities, thus contributing to the effectiveness of a leader. Leaders acquire significant understanding and knowledge from failure (DuBrin, 2013). In cases of failure, leaders adopt various means of survival for organizations to stand the competitive environment despite the failure. Furthermore, failure pushes leaders to renew and reinvent themselves and their companies for them to succeed. In the circumstances of failure, leaders begin by reviewing the conditions leading to it. The review prompts leaders to embrace innovative ways through which organizations can overcome the failure (Hacker & Tammy, 2010).

Over time, leaders from different companies have evaluated their failures to improve the performance of their companies. For example, toward the end of the 950s, the Ford Motor Company ventured into the manufacture and sale of Edsel. The company spent a significant proportion of its incomes to build and sell the model. However, the model was introduced in the market during the recession period in the late 1950s. Apart from stiff competition from the established brands in the market, Edsel failed due to the lack of brand loyalty. The Ford Motor Company failed, as it did not achieve the forecasted point of break-even.

The leaders reviewed their production plans, withdrew the model from the market, and started reinvesting in the former models that performed well in the market (Bonsall, 2002). Recently, the Toyota Corporation was accused of producing and selling faulty cars. The move forced the company to recall a significant proportion of its vehicles sold between 2009 and 2010 (Wheatley, 2010). Although the company lost a significant proportion of its earning, the management engaged in research to establish the cause of the faults. The move contributed to the company investing in providing additional training to its employees to improve the quality of its workmanship, thus reducing the production of defective units (Wheatley, 2010).

Best practices for leaders to follow to improve effectiveness after failure

  • Confronting and learning from failure – For example, when the Toyota Corporation learned of its faulty vehicles, the management called for purchasers and other specialists to provide additional information concerning the faults. The management moved further to engaging in consultations concerning quality to cater for the safety of the drivers.
  • Appreciating leadership roles and responsibilities: – Failure prompts leaders to appreciate their responsibilities. For example, leaders assume responsibility of the failure of their products. For the Edsel model by the Ford Motor Company, the management accepted its failure to conduct elaborate research concerning the market trends and competition (Bonsall, 2002).
  • Building teams to improve the organization’s business. For example, after the recall of the faulty vehicles, the Toyota’s management formed teams of employees to investigate the causes of the problem. The teams were also charged with the responsibility of establishing how to handle the problems.
  • Embracing subsequent chances after failure- For example, after Dell dropped in its sales volumes and revenues, the management did not shut the company. However, the management ventured into social networking to get into direct contact with both the current and prospective customers.
  • Making additional decisions – For example, after Toyota blamed its software for the production of uncontrollable vehicles, the company hired the services of technology firms to probe the issue (Wheatley, 2010).

How experiences with failure in leadership affect the risk-taking and decision-making behaviors

In leadership, the formulation and implementation of decisions involve various risks and uncertainties. However, leaders make decisions and indulge in risky situations depending on their prior experiences with failure (Phillips & Gully, 2012). For example, a leader who failed in a certain market segment cannot reintroduce the same product into the same segment.

In such a case, the leader will conduct both quantitative and qualitative review of his/her decision prior to re-introducing the product in the market. From the decision, the leader determines whether to sell the product (DuBrin, 2013). Although the behavior of risk seeking may lead to losses, risk aversion entails a non-rational factor that hinder the leader from making informed decisions. In most of the instances, leaders evaluate their former failures prior to making decisions concerning risky alternatives (Drucker, 2004).


Failure plays a significant role in leadership. The fear of failure hinders leaders from engaging in innovative ways that contribute to the growth of organizations. However, in recovering from failure, leaders should learn from failure, assume responsibility, and embrace subsequent chances. Experiences with failure determine the manner in which leaders make decisions and indulge in risky ventures. Although averting risks can hinder the management from formulating informed decisions, risky alternatives should be made after a critical evaluation of the factors that can contribute to a given failure.


Bonsall, T. (2002). Disaster in Dearborn: The story of the Edsel. Stanford, CA: Stanford General Books.

Drucker, F. (2004). What makes an effective executive? Harvard Business Review, 82(6), 58-63.

DuBrin, J. (2013). Leadership: Research findings, practice, and skills. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Hacker, S., & Tammy, R. (2010). Transformational leadership: Creating organizations of meaning. Milwaukee, WI: ASQ Quality Press.

Phillips, J., & Gully, M. (2012). Organizational behavior: Tools for success. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Wheatley, M. (2010). Product failure: learning from the lessons of Toyota. Engineering and Technology Magazine, 5(13), 48-50.

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