Valuing failure is not glorifying failure

We all know by now that failure is a part of life – most of us have come up against it more often than we would like. Creating a culture where it’s okay to fail is something on many leaders’ minds – a team environment where there are plenty of support networks are one of the best places to fail! Unfortunately, there are some leaders instilling a false sense of what failing really means amongst their team and it’s a direct result of a culture that has begun to put failure onto a pedestal, creating an unhealthy view of what failure really is.

What is failure culture?

It’s easy to see failure as a negative – after all, everyone would much rather they succeeded on the first try. Failure culture can be a fantastic way to make sure that any setbacks are seen in a positive light, rather than an overwhelmingly negative one. ‘Fail early, fail often’ has become the mantra of the failure culture and it makes sense – the earlier you fail at one approach, the quicker you can learn from your mistakes and move onto the next approach to figure out what will work.

The problem with failure culture is that we’re only getting one side of the story. It’s easy to glorify failure when we only ever hear stories that end in overwhelmingly fantastic success. Think of J.K. Rowling who was rejected 12 times before having her Harry Potter manuscript accepted; Bill Gates first business failed; and Albert Einstein’s early academic failures are in stark contrast to his name being synonymous with intelligence.

We’re always told that even though we might fail, success is probably just around the corner.

The reality is not quite so rosy

We don’t often hear the stories of those who fail and do not manage to turn it into success, even though most of us know, in the back of our minds, that there must be people out there who don’t get to experience the fairytale story.

As we hear the stories of success, we hone in on them because it’s much nicer to think that we’ll eventually achieve all of our goals – it’s a coping mechanism to make it through the hard, mental slog of failing. We don’t like to feel like we’ve been setback, that we’ve made a mistake or that we’re just not quite on the right track. It’s easy to try and see failure as a great thing because we just don’t want to feel bad.

Stop glorifying failure

Glorifying failure as a means to success is simply not a realistic way to look at the road to success. Those who glorify failure are trivialising risk-taking and they aren’t seeing failure for what it really is. You shouldn’t be trying to fail, rather you should be seeing failure as a possible pit-stop and, crucially, you should be analysing any failure closely to see how you can be learning from the experience.

Instead of a failure culture, leaders should be working hard to foster a culture of learning amongst their teams. Failing is always going to happen – whether we’re glorifying it or not – so instead of simply failing and blaming others or halting your journey altogether, it should be the mission of every leader and every team member to be learning from their own failures, as well as the failures of others around them.

Approaching any task lightly with no regard for the consequences a decision could have on both individuals and teams is a dangerous outlook to have – everything should be approached carefully, thoughtfully and realistically. Failure will come but every failure is a chance to learn and grow and it should be seen as such.

If you’re ready to start creating a culture of learning from failure in your team, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Our online leadership training videos start from $99 for a year’s access, with new video training added each quarter. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.