We are all failures—at least the best of us are.
—J. M. Barrie, Scottish author and creator of Peter Pan
This book is intended to be an outlier within the world of management and leadership. We believe this is necessary if society is to cultivate better and wiser leaders.
Much of today's management literature fosters warm feelings and unimportant results. It has good intentions but it leads to sterile outcomes.
Two things are too often lacking in popular analyses of leadership today. First, there is a need to pose more serious, even painful, questions to women and men who aim to lead. Second, there is a need for a real-world, mature, balanced treatment of the complex and convoluted role that failure plays in the life of a leader.
Though the age-old natural human impulse is to recoil from failure, failing forward and failing better have recently become catchphrases in business. This is a swing to the opposite end of the pendulum, and now most management experts, innovation experts, and start-up chief executive officers (CEOs) are using these terms too glibly.
Not many organizations reward or celebrate failure in any observable way. Few even tolerate it. What sensible venture capital firm, after all, would invest millions in a start-up that believed it was perfectly acceptable to fail?
For a broader and more satisfying treatment of when failure is beneficial and when it's not, we must go beyond the faddish management-speak, by surveying the landscapes of history ...