John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.
I will never forget this moment. I was an enterprise sales rep selling complex B2B sales performance improvement solutions. A prospective customer requested a face-to-face meeting with their executive leadership in the room. Doing what most reps do, I pulled my VP of Sales (a man I respected a great deal) into the loop and requested he make the trip west with me.
I monitored from afar for a few weeks. Watching how employees worked; communicated; engaged with clients; how they used their time. I had just inherited team members who were over qualified for the positions they held. But for some reason, their work output wasn’t moving the needle. The business was made up of individuals whose talents were stifled by the lack of a leader to guide them in their professional development.
As I opened the email with the subject line "unauthorized use of email list by your organization" I was eager to see what was inside. In big bold letters it read "Your organization has not licensed the use of this information." It was clear, without knowing, we had made a mistake of using an email list that we were not authorized to use. The email list was filled with thousands of business leaders tasked with the development of employees -- people our company could directly help. It was painful to read, because this list was a major key to our marketing strategy for our new mobile learning platform.
I couldn't believe he didn't know it. Everything was right in front of him. However, instead of seeing it and verbalizing it to me, it was one excuse after another. First, it was his team's fault, then it was the lack of resources provided by the company, and finally, it was the industry as a whole to blame.
As lovely as it would be to have a smooth, easy path to success as a leader, failure is an inevitable part of the process. The stories of some of the great leaders of all time are filled with more failures than success. Take Abraham Lincoln, for example; he was defeated or rejected from public office seven times before ever being elected as the President of the United States at age 51. A combination of his determination and the ability to learn from earlier failures was key to his eventual success as a leader.