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Failure Creates Leaders

Hillary Anaya

Hillary Anaya

So now that I have this rekindled positive outlook about leadership for the arts, what do I do with it?

Well, to be honest, I think failure comes next. How’s that for positive thinking, huh?

But honestly, failures are the best thing; they develop people by pushing them splat on their face, picking them up, and pushing them forward. Failures teach and develop effective leaders.

The best way I can think of to elaborate on this is to share my first failure. It was literally a failure; I received an “F”— twice. And, to add whipped cream to my sundae of defeat, it was at something I assumed I was good at—singing.

This “F” I speak of was not just my ego being hurt, it crumbled the foundation I stood on. I had identified with being a singer since I could crawl, and yet here I was, not passing a vocal exam.

You know what the cherry on top of this mess was? I had one year left to graduate and if I didn’t pass there was no B.A. in my future. Thankfully, I had a team of people who, believed in me, had the courage to fail me—twice—and teach me more than just how to sing.

During the voice lessons that followed, I kept saying (actually babbling because I cried incessantly), “I am a Music BUSINESS major, I don’t plan to go to the Met anytime soon.”

The response was something along the lines of, “you’ll understand why we did this later and laugh.” Laugh? Didn’t they realize my life was over!?

Through the arpeggios and breathing exercises, I trudged forward and did not believe I was capable of passing the exam. But I did, and went on to perform my recital, receive my B.A., and now I’m moving forward on my career path. My instructors were right, I honestly find myself giggling as I recall that time in my life.

I now see that these voice lessons were just a giant life lesson about leadership in disguise.

Without going through the experience of working for something because others believed I could do it, I, in no way, would be equipped to lead anything. How could I possibly motivate and engage others without understanding the power of believing in their potential?

Failures can be humiliating and, if you’re melodramatic like me, it feels as if your life is over. But, they are going to happen and are essential to develop both life and professional skills.

It’s a leader’s responsibility to continue to grow and life will make sure that we do.

When going through a failure and feeling defeated, my advice is to feel positive because the lessons you are about to learn are going to be essential in the future. And, while you may not understand things immediately, the “ah ha” moment will come and you’ll probable laugh about it.

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