3 Things Leaders Should Do To Handle Failure Better

I’m on a blogging sabbatical to write my upcoming book. If you’d like to join my launch team, comment below. This is a guest post by Bobby Benavides. He has served in youth ministry for over 15 years. He currently is a Christian Education Director in Elkins, WV and served as a Youth Development Specialist for WorldVIsion-Appalachia. He is passionate about seeing people come to discover their God-given potential and purpose. He is a writer, public speaker, and book enthusiast. You can follow his blog at www.bobbybenavides.blogspot.com.

failure

Being a leader is hard. In order to move forward in this post, we need to acknowledge this fact. A leader is someone who has been placed in a position to guide, cast vision, motivate, encourage, discipline, and much more, which is a hard position to maintain.

According to the Bible, a leader is called to live to a higher standard. We find in the third chapter of 1 Timothy these words from Paul: “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task…” (v.2; NIV)

Even Paul recognized that being in a role of leadership or oversight is a noble task. A hard role that is held at a high level, that anyone who chooses to take it on, must recognize the weight of their decision.

When you take on the “noble task” of leadership everyone is watching you! You are the one who steps up to the microphone to give the team speech; you are the one they call upon to address the company for inspiration, motivation, and empowerment for the future; you are the one they place at the head of the table; and you are the one they expect to lead without blemish.

You are on the pedestal!

So, what happens when you fall off? What happens when the F-Word comes into the picture? That’s right, FAILURE! I feel like I need to wash my mouth out with soap just saying it, but failure is real.

We will all fail at something. It’s hard enough as it is, but as a leader it can be devastating, not only to the team, but to us and our morale moving forward in our mission. Self-doubt creeps in and we question our ability to fulfill our role. What can we do to hold off those evil feelings of worthlessness, pity, hopelessness, and/or defeat?

Here is a list of three things I believe, that as leaders, if we were to implement them into our work at any level, our failure will not be as devastating as it could be without them:

1) BE HONEST FROM THE BEGINNING: The temptation for any leader is to come in to their role and buy into the false hope and expectations held by their team. You may have been called to be in the position or promoted into the seat, but you cannot be the only person expected to make the business, church, organization succeed. You also cannot be the savior. The responsibility you hold is to move the company forward with innovative ideas and concepts, to empower your people to do their jobs, and maneuver your organization to be in the best possible place. Set reasonable expectations on yourself and allow your “followers” to be a part of establishing those expectations. Do not allow yourself to fall into the hype machine and build your ego up. That is a recipe for disaster and sets you up for falling hard.

2) PRACTICE HUMILITY: You may be successful, but you can only be successful because your team does their job too! Acknowledge their successes before pointing to yours. The hard part about humility is found when failure occurs. Allow yourself to be the first in line for blame. Your team does their work, but you are responsible for the overall completion of the task at hand. Do not throw anyone “under the bus” and expect to hold on to your team’s trust. It will not happen. They will respect you more when you are willing to acknowledge your responsibility and still maintain an attitude of praise for their hard-work.

3) MAINTAIN A HEALTHY SELF-PERCEPTION: You are not defined by your position. The world will tell you otherwise. You have been given gifts that have allowed you to be in the position you are in, but that is not the end of who you are created to be. You are not the first leader to fail and will not be the last. Trust that you can do better moving forward. If you maintain a healthy view of who you are, then failure will not sting as bad as it could have.

Failure is inevitable for everyone, but the way we react to failure is what sets us apart as leaders. Trust in yourself; believe in whom you are; and lead humbly; prepared to handle what comes your way; not only for the sake of your team, but for you as well.


  • Great topic Bobby – I really like #3 – If we never forget that despite our titles we are still prone to failure, we well tend to keep ourselves off the pedestal. If we stay off the pedestal we don’t have as far to fall.

  • Landon

    Hi Paul, congrats on writing a book!

    I’m sure it will be great. What does joining your launch team look like? I’d be interested in more information.
    Keep up the good work for the Lord!

    In Christ,
    Landon

  • Whoo hoo! I knew you had a book in you Paul. I’m here to help you out when you need it!

  • YES! Great article! Super insightful. I agree with Jon, I like number 3. I feel like failure can tell us lies about our identity. Well done, Bobby! Great post!

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  • Sharing failures shows you are human, tells others not to stress out trying to impress you, and ultimately cultivates a culture of trust. Good job!