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“Most entrepreneurs have been moulded by at least one failure. Failure is born out of risk and being prepared to break the rules.” – Leighton

Allan Leighton’s book ‘On Leadership’ which I featured last week also highlighted a host of examples of the power of embracing failure to successful leadership…

“I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to create a culture where mistakes are permissible. If a team doesn’t make mistakes, it’s pretty certain they won’t be creating successes either. And it you punish failure, you create a risk-adverse culture, where people believe they’ll be hounded if they get it wrong and get little benefit if they get it right. They’ll never realise their full potential. Moreover, just as a good leader can make mistakes and bounce back, so can the whole team, and they can learn valuable lessons from the experience. Most of the most successful companies in history have been prepared to fail again and again when they enter a new field. Electronics companies such as Sony and Microsoft, for example, have been vilified for poor products, yet their designers have persisted with version after version until they finally succeeded.”

He goes on to share illustrative stories from James Dyson (“fifteen years of development, 5,127 prototypes and rejection by a string of companies”), Fred Smith of FedEx, Sir Terry Leahy of Tesco, and Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse.

“When you are taking a portfolio approach, not all of your decisions will be good. In fact, failure at some point is inevitable: we make mistakes and will continue to make them. I don’t want people too scared to make mistakes, otherwise they can’t make successes.” – Sir Tom Hunter, West Coast Capital

Finally, right at the end of the book, he concludes with a sub-chapter titled “Making Mistakes” in which he recounts his “worst ever mistake ever made.” He talks about a major initiative to revamp about forty MFI home furnishing stores. He recalls being at a low when ASDA CEO Archie Norman stopped by his office and asked what was the matter:

“I told him that I had really screwed up on those stores. I was going to have to undo them and spend another £10 million redoing what I should have got right in the first place. Archie laughed and said, ‘Thank Christ for that. Everyone knows you screwed up. Everyone knows you are going around like a bear with a sore head, but nobody wants to be the one to come and tell you. Just get on with it.’”

Allan learned his lessons, fixed the mistakes and “sales immediately went up.”

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