Why Leaders Fail Fast


By Jas Singh

Two weeks ago I took my son and his cousin sister to the park. Both of them are three years old and this was a day they’d been looking forward to for some time. After months of nagging, pleading and tantruming the big day had arrived.

My brother and I had finally succumbed.

We had decided to give in and buy them their first scooter.

It’s the toddler equivalent of getting your first car.

Mega excited, they ran for the tarmac; ready to learn to ride their prized new possession.

Watching them learn was a fascinating experience. They both had totally different approaches. My niece was much more outgoing, boisterous and even a little dangerous. My son more calculated, careful and risk averse.

15 minutes into it, my care-free niece looked like she’d been in a fight. Ripped stockings, muddy hands, hair all over the place. I counted at least three high impact collisions or falls, with endless tumbles. My son on the other hand seemed to be coping better – not one fall – and although unable to go at speed was wheeling around slowly but surely.

An hour later however, it was a totally different story. Although she still looked like a character out of Fraggle Rock, my niece had become the child version of Jane Torvill. (A famous British ice-skater for those who aren’t familiar). Flying around at top speed as free as a bird. My son? He was improving but progress was slower. It took him over a week before he finally managed to get used to scooting at high speed.

Why had my niece learned so quickly?

It was because although she had fallen, she had fallen quickly. She had failed fast. And since we all know that mistakes and learning from failure is essential in any major undertaking, isn’t it better to fail fast?

So we can learn, improve and move forward more quickly?

Here are some reasons why great leaders fail fast.

It saves time

If overcoming failure is essential to success, why wait?

Why be afraid of making mistakes when they can be seen as vital opportunities to master the purpose you are trying to accomplish?

Failure can only be seen as permanent failure if it causes you to stop. Great leaders realise that success never occurs in straight lines and in order to win often it’s necessary to embrace and learn from mistakes.

By failing fast, it allows you to quickly make adjustments when necessary. It allows you to change direction if you are off course. It allows you to test new strategies, techniques and ideas more quickly to see which one is the best. In some cases, it even allows you to see if what you’re doing is even worth the time and effort in the first place.

That’s why Silicon Valley start-ups are encouraged by VC firms to try and fail fast.
Investors realise that with so many new apps and digital businesses being launched every day, only the very best will survive. Rather than spend years of time and effort only to get wiped out by a Facebook or a Twitter, it’s better to fail fast than waste time and energy in the long-run.

Failing fast saves time.

It builds strength

Failure often teaches the most important lessons.

We all know the famous examples of Donald Trump, Will Smith and Michael Jordan who failed at an important part of their lives but who took the opportunity to learn, grow and come back stronger.

Experience and strength often comes through times of hardship and failure than times of success. Great leaders in all callings often have the “battle scars” from earlier on in their lives that have given them the strength and determination to succeed.

In fact, in ten years as a hiring specialist I can say with confidence that people who go on to reach truly powerful positions of leadership – CEO’s of companies or successful entrepreneurs – often do so in a very similar way. It’s nearly always due to years and years of struggle and hard work followed by rapid achievement.

It’s almost like handling extreme failure is a pre-requisite for achievement.
That why people often say “if only I’d known what I know now 20 years ago”.

Through overcoming constant set-backs and falls we become masters of our trade.

The more you overcome failure, the stronger you become.

It keeps you ahead

To fail fast requires courage. It takes risk. But since few people are prepared to take this risk, it’s often where the big opportunities lie.

Take entrepreneurs for example. Entrepreneurs by definition are those individuals who embrace risk. But nearly every entrepreneur I have worked with who does eventually start to decline, does so for the same reason. It’s when they hit that once despised word.

It’s when they become comfortable.

We all know that having belief in one-self and taking risk is what often gets us ahead. But few of us remember that this is what also keeps us ahead.

Great leaders continue to fail fast since they know that they need to consistently innovate and improve to stay ahead. Which often means pushing the barriers and making more mistakes.

It’s why entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson continue to take risks when most people would be taking it easy.

To innovate often means embracing failure.


We all have to make mistakes to grow.

Often the more mistakes we overcome, the stronger we become.

Hiring managers can gain much from those people who are not afraid to make mistakes. Who are prepared to fail fast. Who just keep going and going and going until they find the magic formula.

How can you fail faster?

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