Why Your Biggest Embarrassment Makes You More of a Leader

Has something happened to you that you’re embarrassed to admit? Was it fair? Was it your fault? Do you feel like a fraud? Are you letting it keep you from leadership in your field or being of service to others?

How to get over your fear of failure

We were having lunch, my friend and I, catching up on business and life. But there was a purpose for our meeting that had a lot to do with his future plans. So after the small talk, he told me his story.

“I was passed over for promotion. It took me totally by surprise and put an end to my career. The worst part was, everyone knew it. I went from being the ‘go to guy’ to someone they’d pass in the hall with little more than ‘hello’. My opinions were ignored. Invitations dried up. It was the longest year of my life.”

But the opinion he held of himself was more significant than the reaction of co-workers. It shook his self-confidence and made him question the future.

“How can I help others achieve great things when I wasn’t successful in my own career? What gives me the right to offer advice, when I feel like I was a failure?”

  • Can you improve a relationship after you’ve been divorced?
  • Should you sit on a panel if your business went bankrupt?
  • Can you still parent if your child took a dark path?
  • Are you considered a community leader after losing an election?
  • Does depression keep you from offering hope to another?

Are you ashamed of something in your life that you’re using as a reason to keep from moving forward?

My friend almost did. And that would have been a darned shame. It’s because of that experience his value increased.

No one wants to follow someone who’s never been tested. You have figured out ways to bounce back from disappointment, rejection and loss. Like Thomas Edison, you’ve learned thousands of ways NOT to do something. You have learned how to navigate rough waters.

Do not let your worth be defined by one sliver in time. And don’t let the wisdom and experience you’ve gained from life’s ups and downs go to waste.

If you allow this one event to keep you isolated and diminished, someone somewhere will suffer because they didn’t have access to lessons you’ve learned.

You offer others a high value alternative to what, too often, is the norm: Big Hat, No Cattle (Randy Newman)

“Big head, no brain. Big snake, no rattle. Big boat, no paddle. Big belly, no heart.” 

You may not be “perfect”, wealthy or powerful by popular measure, but people of substance recognize battle scars as stripes on your sleeve.

In basic training, they took away our civilian clothes and issued fatigues, a version of the working man’s overalls. Only after we passed numerous tests and weeks of training did we get to wear our dress blues. Basically, you had to “earn your clothes”.

You have earned your clothes and through those struggles have built a great deal of equity in character and competence.

And you’re not alone. Many around you have forged ahead despite tremendous turmoil. You can tell who they are. There is wisdom in their eyes, patience in their soul and compassion in their hearts.

Those are the folks with the biggest impact on others. They’ve earned the right to say they are leaders.