Leadership: What is your greatest failure?

I recently came across a blog post about taking inspiration from Abraham Lincoln, a beloved historic figure who famously experienced numerous failures and setbacks on his journey to becoming the sixteenth president of the United States. I have read many similar articles before, but in this one, the author said something that really stood out:


“One of my favorite questions to ask a leader is ‘What is your greatest failure?’ Not ‘biggest’ failure, but ‘greatest’ failure! It sounds like an oxymoron, but it is a question that is rarely asked, and yet defines most of us more than our successes do. The path to greatness has many bumps, do you cherish yours?”


Now there’s a question to make you think! I have often heard – and asked – about “greatest successes,” but I have never seriously considered the question, “What is your greatest failure?”


But when you stop to think about it, it really is true that our “greatest” failures shape us as much or more than what we perceive to be our greatest successes.


Our greatest failures force us to reevaluate our methods and strategies, goals and priorities, and even our passion and direction in life. Our greatest failures challenge us to fix our mistakes, address our weaknesses, focus on our strengths, and try again.


As mentioned in the quote above, your “greatest” failure is not necessarily your “biggest” failure. Your greatest failure could be something that to an outsider appears trivial or insignificant – not even worth worrying about. But to you, your greatest failure is the one experience that taught you more about yourself and revealed more of your character than any of your “greatest” successes ever could have.


Your greatest failure should be remembered and cherished. You may not have realized it at the time, but it is that “great” failure that has helped define you and give you direction! So, what is your greatest failure?



To read the full blog post by Mark Adamson, please click here.


NielsenCopyright © 2013 by Dan Nielsen – www.dannielsen.com

National Institute for Healthcare Leadership – www.nihcl.com

America’s Healthcare Leaders – www.americashealthcareleaders.com


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