Why Every Great Leader Needs To Make Bad Decisions

May 31, 2016, 11:00 PM UTC
Christian Bale plays Michael Burry in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises
Photo by Jaap Buitendijk © 2015 Paramount Pictures

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “Why is it important to embrace imperfection in professional development?” is written by Ravin Gandhi, CEO and co-founder of GMM Nonstick Coatings.

If you step into any bookstore, chances are you’ll find plenty of self-help books aimed at helping you succeed, but less common are books that guide you to fail because I’m pretty sure nobody would buy it.

However, failure is a critical part of success in life and business. Over the past 20 years, I have started, built and sold companies. I have been lucky to have some wonderful successes, but my previous failures were most helpful. Here’s why:

You’ll gain character

Read the biographies of highly successful people who changed the world–people like Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King Jr. Their stories are filled with recurring failures, time and again. However, what separated them from the masses is that they did not dwell on things that didn’t go well. They kept their nose to the grindstone, especially after crippling failures. This ability to work hard after a crushing defeat is the type of character and ambition you need to truly succeed at anything.

You’ll learn to embrace change

When you fail, you usually have to change something about yourself or your goal. And change can be a very painful process because we are usually very comfortable being set in our ways. However, one of the biggest commonalities of successful people is that they embrace change. The world is constantly evolving, and the difference between an irrelevant startup and a multi-billion dollar IPO might be a simple pivot.

You’ll gain wisdom

When you look at successful people, you can see a long list of great decisions that they made. However, what you do not see is the long list of mistakes they avoided, which they likely wouldn’t have been able to dodge without experiencing previous failures. And in most cases, this is the bigger cause of success. I can’t tell you how often I have steered clear of a landmine because of a previous experience that didn’t go well. By accepting that the world is an imperfect place, you can figure out faster what you truly want to do with the precious time that you have. Use this wisdom to avoid future regrets, and you will find yourself succeeding faster in every area.

You’ll be more grateful

The wonderful thing about having scars in business, and in life, is that they are a reminder of how far you’ve come. Without a few bad experiences, you may not appreciate the hard-earned success that you have achieved. I know firsthand how painful failure is, and trust me, when great things happen, I don’t just rush out looking for the next thing. I take a little time and enjoy myself, because I definitely know things may have gone the other way.