How should a leader behave in the face of a team failure?

When the chips are down, teams look towards their leaders for direction. How a leader responds determines the future of the organization and its defining culture.

I saw Mission Mangal recently & realized the opening scene is modelled around a famous incident that took place when Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was faced with the SLV-3 failure.

Prof. Satish Dhawan took upon himself the failure of theSLV-3 Mission at a public Press conference. A year later, after a successful launch heattributed the success of the subsequent Mission to his team.

Dr Kalam said “I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the leader of the organisation owned that failure. When success came, he gave it to his team. The best management lesson I have learned did not come to me from reading a book; it came from that experience,”

To my mind, this is a brilliant example of leading from the front and of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership at work.

This incident had a huge impact on Dr. Kalam’s mind and shaped his persona as a leader. He referred to this incident several times during his Presidency and subsequently too.

This is a favourite anecdote at Shradha HRD. One we quote quite often during our programs on Emotional Intelligence for Leaders. It is rare to have a leader that is secure enough to give credit to the team for successes and accept responsibility for failures himself.