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Leadership Resilience - Learning from Mistakes

Leadership Resilience

I was recently working with one of my San Francisco Bay Area executive coaching clients – the CEO of a boutique hotel and restaurant company. We had an enlightening coaching conversation about how he has handled failure and learned from his mistakes. We talked about how he was able to bounce back from failure by viewing business as a learning laboratory.

My executive coaching client and I further discussed how resilient leaders bounce back from adversity. He has an agile mind and insatiable curiosity.

My client and I shared how we both were saddened by the passing of Steve Jobs. Did you know that Steve Jobs was a college dropout, and got fired from his own company? So how did he turn his story into power, and create the most admired company in the world?

Steve Jobs and the success of Apple is an inspiration to all of us who want to tap into our creative genius. Steve Jobs was the Thomas Edison of our time, and the greatest thing we can do is learn from him and build on his incredible legacy. I am coaching my client to help his employees become more resilient, and create a culture where innovation requires both risk and reward.

Learning from Mistakes

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Failure is one of life’s most common traumas, yet people’s responses to it vary widely. Many managers have learned to reframe personal and departmental setbacks by stating: “There are no mistakes, only learning opportunities”—and it’s a great sentiment. In practice, however, their companies often continue to view failures in the most negative light.

Part of the problem lies in our natural tendency to blame. We perceive and react to failure inappropriately. How can we learn anything if our energy is tied up in either assigning or avoiding blame? Still others overreact with self-criticism, which leads to stagnation and fears of taking future risks.

In the 1930s, psychologist Saul Rosenzweig proposed three broad personality categories for how we experience anger and frustration:

1. Extrapunitive: Prone to unfairly blame others

2. Impunitive: Denies that failure has occurred or one’s own role in it

3. Intropunitive: Judges self too harshly and imagines failures where none exist

Extrapunitive responses are common in the business world. Because of socialization and other gender influences, women are more likely to be intropunitive.

Fortunately, managers at all organizational levels can repair their flawed responses to failure. Business consultants Ben Dattner and Robert Hogan suggest three highly effective steps in “Can You Handle Failure?” (Harvard Business Review, April 2011)

Are you working in a professional services firm or other organization where executive coaches provide leadership development to grow emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to bounce back from adversity? Resilient leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a culture where people can learn from mistakes.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “How do I handle failure?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their peak performance leadership development program.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help you become more resilient. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

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