How to lead through disappointment

Leading requires us to initiate action for others to follow in every season of life.

We must lead in the inspiring and exciting times, as well as the disappointing and challenging times. Leaders often get to lead through wins, but sometimes we will also lead through losses and disappointments along the way.

You may have heard the phrase before that “Love is a verb.” Well, so is leadership. As author Patrick Lencioni said, in an interview on The Learning Leader Show with Ryan Hawk, “Leadership is a verb.” Lencioni makes the comparison of love to leadership as a word that calls us to take action in ways of love, discipline and affection. It is often in seasons of hardship and trials that this verb of leadership is called into action.

Whether a disappointment comes from within our teams or outside of them, choosing to lead well in these times can bring us to some of our most significant moments of leadership.

Regardless of highs or lows, we must learn how to lead effectively.

Here are six ways to effectively lead through disappointment:

  1. Face the disappointment head-on. Regardless of where the disappointment is coming from, seek to deal with it right away. Allow your team to see and understand why you are dealing with this challenge in the way you are.
  2. Process through the emotions. Many disappointments, failures or problems can be very draining. We put a lot of passion and energy into working. Our feelings are still a part of the equation in a significant way. Avoiding the processing of our feelings of frustration, anger or let-down will not push them away. Instead, they will likely only surface again.
  3. Find a mentor before these seasons. Everyone (yes, even if not a leader) should have mentors in their lives. Mainly when you are leading others, finding someone with ample experience who can guide you with wisdom through difficult situations is vital.
  4. Remember, leadership should be responsibility-centered. In The Learning Leader Show with Ryan Hawk, Patrick Lencioni discusses five key actions of essential leadership, naming one as responsibility-centered leadership. Lencioni says this type of leadership is “the belief that being a leader is a responsibility, and therefore that the experience of leading should be difficult and challenging (though certainly not without elements of personal gratification).”
  5. Communicate your support and engagement. Continue to show your team your support. Be active within conversations throughout the challenges and seeking to encourage your team. If failure or disappointment came from a team member, use the opportunity for growth and refocus.
  6. Discover the lessons to be learned. Sometimes the lessons to be learned are for someone on our team, our entire teams or simply for us to learn and grow. While these moments can be difficult to face, if we want to move beyond them and grow from them, we must ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this?

The role of leadership asks for us to help our teams navigate through the good and bad times, which is easier said than done. But when we can begin to actively lead through these difficult times, as long and tumultuous as they may be, we will soon find our teams grow, the quality of our work culture increases and our leadership transforms to become that much more effective.