• Matt Black

How to Overcome Epic Leadership Fails

Here’s the most obvious thing you’ll read all day: things in business – and furthermore in life – aren’t always going to go your way.

Mind. Blown. Right?

Sometimes, it’s the poor decision-making and a lack of understanding from the leaders you’re surrounded by that throws a wrench in your otherwise perfect plans.

But there’s no reason that has to bring you down or set you too far off course.

Here are 4 strategies that you can use to overcome epic leadership fails:

1. Seek clear reasons – and document them.

Let’s face it: the only way you’re ever going to be able to move on from a leadership fail is by understanding the why. Some of the other questions you may be asking yourself are a little more obvious.

For instance: “How could this happen?”

Simple. People are human and make mistakes – that includes leaders.

But it’s how you follow up and figure out why the leader made the decision he or she made that will either set you up for success down the road or encourage future failures. You can’t be afraid to schedule some time to meet with your leader and ask them thoughtful questions that will produce actionable answers about what happened – and make sure you take notes! These types of conversations will strengthen your understanding of how things occurred the way they did – but more importantly – will teach you more about the leader themselves.

2. Draw inspiration and guidance from others.

In the aftermath of a poor decision by the leaders around you, learn something.

Try to spend time with colleagues and others in your network who have either faced a situation with the individual specifically, or who have encountered a similar event during their experience. There is so much to be gained by having an ethical, well-intentioned conversation with your peers who can relate! Even if you’re confident you know how to handle or bounce back from a certain situation, it’s cathartic and often extremely productive to try to draw inspiration from the actions and advice of others. When we’re faced with difficult decisions or forced to overcome adversity – personally or professionally – it helps to understand that others have been in your shoes before.

One last thing to remember: try to focus on the facts and leave the opinions to a more private forum. It’s crucial that you remain as positive as possible. It’s easy to say something you shouldn’t if you’re fired up or angry based on a decision by leadership, but the last thing you want or need is to face repercussions over comments you make to others.

3. Put your nose to the grindstone.

This old saying rings true in my mind. Sometimes, when you feel unsupported by leadership, the best way to move forward is to just keep your head down and work even harder to achieve your objectives. To some, this may sound contradictory. But at the end of the day, you have to focus on the things that you can control, like your attitude and your effort.

Despite being let down by the leaders around you, there’s nothing stopping you from centering yourself on the principles that make you a key asset to the organization. Find ways to emphasize your value (in a humble way of course), and steer clear of any gossip or negative conversations focused around the leader’s decision. In the end, it’s the genuinely good people who work the hardest and build relationships with everyone that rise to the top.

4. Build a bigger boat.


Okay, so this may be an iconic scene and quote from one of my all-time favourite movies, but the analogy is perfect for the topic at hand. Chief Brody is quick to recognize that he and the boys are outmatched by Jaws – so he instinctively suggests that the tools they’re working with aren’t going to suffice.

And sometimes that’s exactly the case in business.

But you aren’t always going to have the resources you feel you need or deserve – and it’s in times like these that you’re going to be pushed to your limits. Sometimes leaders fail to see the need for that extra member of your team or the extension of a deadline. But at the same time, maybe you really do need to reassess how you’ve allocated resources… or who you’ve hired… or why exactly you’re feeling unsupported or over-matched.

The key point here is that overcoming a leadership fail is directly related to how you adapt and use the resources that you do have at your disposal. If that means you have to adjust your strategy to meet the leader’s expectations, make it happen. If that forces you to change the way you prioritize, do what you have to do.

Have you ever faced an epic leadership fail, and if so, how did you manage? What constitutes a failure of leadership in your eyes? Feel free to discuss in the Comments section below!


©2020 by Matt Black Ink | All rights reserved | Toronto