Career Guide

Top 10

Ways to be a tough leader

1 Treat failures as learning opportunities

The next time you experience failure, try treating them as opportunities to better yourself. Failures are part of your unique success story. Remind yourself that every failure is a step forward towards eventual success, and can be faced in the spirit of inquisitiveness and courage. What went wrong and what can I learn from this all?

2 See negative emotions experienced from failure as normal

Negative emotions serve to protect us from trying things that may cause us to experience more distress. Seeing negative emotions as a normal response to failure helps cultivate a healthy attitude towards them. Negative emotions make great disciplinary teachers but terrible motivational speakers.

3 See positive emotions as an antidote to overcoming failure

Positive emotions encourage, empower and re-energise our efforts. Treat positive emotions as antidotes to negative emotions experienced from failure, and cultivate ways to experience them more frequently in your life. Positive emotions also have a restorative effect on our health. Developing resilience by cultivating positive emotions is beneficial for our mental and psychological well-being.

4 Know when to step back and recharge

Failures can be overwhelming, and each of us have different limits on how much we can take when faced with failure. Know what your limits are – recognise when you are making impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decisions and actions, and take time to recharge. You will be in a clearer state of mind to respond to, rather than simply reacting to your negative emotions.

5 Seek social support

You probably have a network of friends, or family members that you can relate to, who trust and accept you as you are. Asking for support during instances of failure is not a weakness – your emotions are telling you that you could use help recovering from failure by connecting with those who are genuinely concerned for you.

6 Remember that very successful people fail too

A success story that includes instances of failure is going to sell better than one where very little mention of adversity or challenges are made. Read the autobiography of someone you consider a role model or wish to emulate. Doing so helps you recognise that failures are normal – and necessary experiences on the road to success. Good autobiographies also elicit inspiration – another powerful positive emotion to help you build resilience in the face of failures.

7 Reignite your passion

Reflect on your role and responsibilities. Why do you persist in doing what you do? Thinking about the core meaning and significance of one’s job, role and responsibilities helps remind us of what we are passionate about. Such self-reflection questions may even trigger an impulse to seek out and explore passions closer to your interests.

8 Take pride in your skills and accomplishments

In the face of failure, it is easy to fixate on our deficiencies and weaknesses. Try listing out your strengths and successes that have led you to this point, and remind yourself that one failure is not a generalised, negative judgement about you as an individual.

9 Be self-compassionate when experiencing failure

Part of being self-compassionate is to recognise that other people also fail, have bad days, and are more likely to exaggerate their accomplishments than advertise their failures. Treat yourself to a pick-me-up after experiencing failure, recognising that you have done all that you could, and that you will live to try to again another day.

10 Stay hopeful

Think of helpful and encouraging responses to your failure experience. Generate an action plan that helps you overcome this failure, or to learn from it. When you have a plan, carry it out. Your action plan can give you that hope to bounce back from failures, since you have created the means and kick-started your motivation to overcome your setback.