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Failure: A Leader's Best Tool for Improvement

By Shane Elmore, RN

"Try and fail, but do not fail to try" - Stephen Kaggwa.

Have you ever felt like you made a mistake or failed as a leader? Of course you have, because all leaders -- whether in the hospital, EMS organization, or even the home -- have failed. What separates the best leaders from the rest of the pack is how they view their failures. For them, failure is a gift rather than a curse. They view failure as a way to assess a better way forward, an opportunity to learn, or an experience that will shape their next decision.


Yet most people in leadership positions are afraid that failure stifles their potential and confuses those they lead.  
How can you tell whether you are a top leader or one afraid of failure? Answering these questions will get you started.

  1. Are you more concerned with comfort or progress?

 People who are afraid of failure prefer to stay in their comfort zones. If you never step outside of your comfort zone, you can never make forward progress for your team. Great leaders are willing to take risks, get outside their comfort zones and push boundaries.

  1. Do you hesitate to make decisions?

Uncertain leaders often fail to make decisions in a timely manner. Afraid to make an incorrect decision, they put off making any one at all. Yet the reality is – more often than not – any decision is better than no decision; especially if you’re leading a team waiting for guidance.

If you wait until you are absolutely certain of success, the decision process takes too long and opportunities are lost. Great leaders pull the trigger, see what unfolds, and adjust accordingly.

  1. Do you consider a mistake failure?

Many leaders consider mistakes failures and spend valuable time worrying about poor decisions they’ve made rather than simply correcting their mistakes. Great leaders view mistakes as part of their growth process. In fact, mistakes are often when great leaders experience the highest period of growth in their leadership skills. Finding a way to correct a mistake and move a group forward despite a setback is a key attribute among great leaders.

  1. When making a big decision, what thought is in the back of your mind?

If your answer is, “What will people think of me?” you are keeping yourself from becoming a great leader. Great leaders care more about the eventual outcome than what people around them think along the way.

How did you fare on this self-assessment? Hopefully, you’ve identified an area or two where there is an opportunity for leadership growth.

CHALLENGE: Step out of your comfort zone and take a risk. View failure as an opportunity for growth. Keep the end goal rather than others’ opinions in mind.

Quickly, you’ll find yourself rising to the top.

ARTICLE CATEGORIES: Leadership
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Shane Elmore, RN

Shane Elmore, RN

Shane is Pulsara's Vice President of Clinical Innovation, and is certified in CCRN, CEN, and CFRN. Shane is a former Chest Pain Coordinator at Trinity Mother Frances Health System.

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