Management Professor Views Failures as Critical to Success
October 03, 2014
"Whenever you aspire to be creative-to stretch yourself and take risks-you're bound to have setbacks. In other words, you're going to fail to some degree as a prelude to success," observes Charles Manz, Isenberg's Nirenberg Professor of Leadership. In business, in science, and in personal growth, the path to success will have its share of road bumps; rarely does it proceed in a straight line, he says.
Steve Jobs, notes Manz, was a serial failure before becoming a serial success. Michael Jordan reminds us that in missing 9,000 shots, including 26 potential game winners, he failed over and over again. "That is why I succeed," Jordan said. And Bill Gates offers the following advice: "Once you embrace unpleasant news not as negative but as evidence of a need for change, you aren't defeated by it. You're learning from it."
On September 15, Manz explored the failure-success dynamic in a keynote presentation, "Turning Failure into a Gateway to Success," at a Crisis Management Boot Camp for PR professionals at the historic Yale Club in Manhattan. Public relations professionals are often charged with protecting their brands and the reputations of their companies, notes Manz. When something goes wrong-for example, an auto industry recall-PR professionals help their companies or company clients reframe and respond constructively to the challenge, he says.
Failure, Success, and Self-Leadership
Manz gained recognition as a failure pundit with the publication in 2002 of his bestselling book, The Power of Failure. As one of the earlier book-length treatments of the subject, it established his high-profile in the field and helped inspire what has become an ongoing stream of articles and books by others. For Manz, who is an authority on self-leadership, the failure-success tango fits perfectly into the bigger analytic picture. Learning and mastering self-leadership strategies and skills, he observes, can empower every employee to lead themselves systematically, assessing and leveraging their personal cognitive, emotional, physical, and spiritual resources. And as he points out in the 6th edition of his 2013 book Mastering Self-Leadership, learning how to "fail in a whole new light" can be a key to success.
Rx for Isenberg Students
At Isenberg, Manz's message of overcoming and learning from obstacles is tailor-made for Isenberg's resilient, tough-minded students. A perennial topic in his courses on leadership, his prescriptions for turning failure into success include ten recommendations derived from his book. Manz has refined and shared those tenets in recent keynote presentations and news interviews. The first asks students to redefine success and failure more constructively, more symbiotically. Discovering opportunities in failure, cultivating persistence, and moving beyond denial of one's mistakes while emphasizing the learning that they provide are also on Manz's short-list. And while he advocates fleshing out the silver lining in crises and setbacks, he warns that success itself can plant the seeds of failure if those achievements lead to resting on one's laurels: "What breeds complacency more than success?" he asks.