Image of a person in a patterned top holding their thumb down to indicate rejection

8 skills needed by leaders and Entrepreneurs to Deal with Rejection and Failure:

And 4 practical steps to take

If you can meet with rejection and failure and treat those two impostors just the same. Yours is the earth – with apologies to Rudyard Kipling.

Rejection and failure are part of the journey of leadership and entrepreneurship. But, as Kipling reminds us, we can redefine their significance and meaning.

Our journeys, including mine, take us on a path marked not just by the milestones of success, but also by the hurdles of setbacks and negative outcomes. Yet, as we navigate these challenges, we build resilience and forge the true essence of leadership.

Leaders and entrepreneurs can discover ways to handle rejection and failure with strength and with compassion for themselves. We are helped by looking at previous discussions and insights from the experts in this post.

1. Understanding the Impact of Rejection and Failure
Rejection and failure can have a lasting impact that goes beyond the immediate emotional sting. It has the power to shake confidence, breed self-doubt, and instil fear of future risks. However, interpreting our setbacks is crucial. When we view failure as an opportunity for growth instead of a reflection of our abilities, we are more likely to keep going and succeed. So how do we go about it?

2. The Power of Resilience
We need to cultivate the art of resilience. Resilience, as discussed in earlier articles, is the capacity to recover from difficulties. It’s not about avoiding failure but, everything about learning from the experience. It’s about how to bounce back. There are various approaches that can help nurture this resilience.

3. Acceptance and Emotional Intelligence: 
Acknowledge your emotions regarding the failure without dwelling on them. Emotional intelligence involves recognising our own emotional responses and adeptly managing them, allowing us to move forward with clarity and purpose.

4. Reframing the Narrative: 
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, “What does not kill me makes me stronger.” This perspective invites us to reframe failure as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block. By changing our internal narrative, we can view setbacks as essential components of the learning process.

5. Seeking Feedback and Learning: 
Use rejection and failure as opportunities to gain valuable feedback. What can be learned from this experience? How can it inform future strategies? This approach aligns with the idea of a “learning orientation” in psychology, which emphasises the importance of growth and knowledge over fear of failure.

6. Balancing Resilience with Persistence
Persistence is the steadfast pursuit of a course of action despite obstacles or resistance. While resilience is about bouncing back, persistence is about pushing forward. The key is to balance these qualities, knowing when to persist with a plan and when to adapt or pivot based on the lessons learned from setbacks.

7. Strategic Persistence: 
It involves recognising when persistence is fruitful versus when it turns into stubbornness. Leaders and entrepreneurs should ask themselves: Is continued effort likely to overcome the obstacle, or is it time to reassess and try a different approach?

8. Adaptive Flexibility: 
This is the key to resilience. This concept advocates for a flexible approach to goals and strategies. Opting for a different approach after experiencing failure can lead to greater effectiveness rather than doggedly staying on the same path. This flexibility can be crucial for navigating the unpredictable landscape of entrepreneurship and leadership.

Inspirational Insights from Philosophers and Psychologists

Philosophers and psychologists offer valuable insights for handling setbacks.

This ancient philosophy teaches the importance of focusing on what we can control and letting go of what we cannot. Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher, believed that we have control over our reactions to events, even if we can’t control the events themselves. An approach adopted by Viktor Frankl in his ground breaking work ‘Mans Search for Meaning’

Positive Psychology:
Martin Seligman, often regarded as the father of positive psychology, emphasises the importance of optimism and positive thinking in overcoming challenges. His findings indicate that maintaining a positive attitude can boost resilience and enhance one’s ability to cope with challenges. Obvious perhaps, and espoused by self-improvement gurus the world over.

Practical Steps Forward

Incorporating these philosophies and psychological insights, here are practical steps leaders and entrepreneurs can take to skillfully handle rejection and failure.

1. Reflect and Learn: As discussed in my post on Self-reflection, here take time to reflect on the experience. What worked, what didn’t, and why? This reflection is crucial for learning and growth.

2. Set Realistic Goals:
Split major objectives into manageable, reachable stages. This helps maintain motivation and perspective, making setbacks less daunting.

3. Build a support network:
Surround yourself with mentors, peers, and a system that can advise, encourage, and offer a different perspective.

4. Embrace a Growth Mindset:
Cultivate the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. This mindset fosters a love for learning and resilience in the face of setbacks.

Concluding Thoughts

Dealing with rejection and failure is a complex process that needs resilience, persistence, and a growth mindset. By embracing these challenges as opportunities for learning and growth, leaders, and entrepreneurs can navigate the complexities of their roles with greater confidence and effectiveness.

Remember, it’s not the setbacks that define us, but how we respond to them. As we continue to strive for success, let us do so with the wisdom that every failure brings us one step closer to our goals, enriching our journey with invaluable lessons and insights.

Next time… How to turn Fear into a benefit