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Where Real Progress Comes From—Learning from Failures Part 3

By CAL Founding President Samuel Kim

 I have shared three tips on how we can shift our view of failure, while learning and benefiting from it.  Coming to the last of the three-part essay, the three suggestions I have shared in the previous weeks may sound difficult or unreasonable. After all, failure can be embarrassing, even disastrous.

But even bad mistakes can seem less daunting if you change your perspective on them.

Rather than viewing failure as a source of guilt, shame, and dishonor, why not try seeing it as a gateway to eventual success? If you look back at past victories in your life, you will often find that behind them lie several mistakes—setbacks that guided you via trial and error to your triumph, and thus enabled you to become a stronger, better leader.

I believe that leadership is about closing the gap between aspiration and reality.

We are all faced with a set of challenges, from personal problems to community issues and global threats. Meeting these challenges and turning our aspirations into reality requires a great deal of courage, for failures and mistakes, will inevitably make us stumble along the way. But by accepting our shortcomings and supporting others during their times of need, we will be able to achieve more than we can imagine.

It is important to remember that everybody fails—even the most effective and dynamic leaders have known defeat.

For that reason, one of the most powerful tools you can build for yourself is a support system of confidants and mentors who can sympathize with your errors. Besides providing assistance and new ideas, such support systems also offer the invaluable comfort of friendship. 

At the Center for Asia Leadership, we believe that effective leadership comes through learning from our failures and from each other.

Our programs for youths, corporate professionals, nonprofit executives, and social entrepreneurs are all designed to promote collaborative learning. By leveraging the vast educational resources at Harvard, we hope one day to achieve the goal of empowering people at all levels of the social structure—individuals, organizations, and governmental bodies—so that we can unite in understanding today’s challenging issues, turning obstacles into opportunities, and addressing the problems we all face constructively and innovatively.

Interested in bringing leadership programs to your organization? Visit our Adaptive Leadership Signature Program Page.