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3 Ways to Learn From Failed Relationships to Strengthen Your Leadership Style

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When thinking about your leadership style, images of boardrooms, Zoom calls, and mentorship meetings might immediately spring to mind. But your leadership isn’t just expressed in work-based situations. The way you show up as a leader touches all areas of your life. And your relationships—especially your failed relationships—can give you the greatest insight into how you can become a stronger leader. Here’s how to take those failures and turn them into gold.

1. Get Curious

Curiosity is one of the greatest attributes a leader can have. According to research, it keeps your mind nimble and creative while remaining open to new ideas and solutions, as well as promoting more positive relationships in the workplace. In fact, the more questions you ask of others, the more likely they are to see you as competent and caring. Utilizing this curiosity, there are a few things you can do to see where your failed relationships can lead to better leadership skills in the future. 

The first step, get curious about your part in relationships that have ended. If you’re being as objective as possible, was there something you did that contributed to the breakdown of the relationship? Did your words and actions make the other person feel valued and appreciated? Did you get curious about that person, their interests, and things that were important to them? Did you ask them questions about their experiences, feelings, thoughts, and insights? Did you value their input and contribution? 

If you aren’t sure about any of these things and you feel it would be helpful (and safe), reach out to past partners (personal and professional), as well as former friends or colleagues, and ask for their input. It may give you insight into places where you’ve developed patterns of relating to others that work against you in your leadership roles. 

For example, if you were to speak with a former friend, you may be surprised to find that during their relationship with you, they often felt unheard or dismissed. These types of experiences can breed feelings of resentment, leading to a breakdown of the relationship. If you were to receive that kind of feedback, get curious about where you may be doing this in your other relationships, including at work when you’re leading the team. 

A team that feels unheard or dismissed is a team that stops asking questions, becomes afraid to innovate, and loses their commitment to the company because their contribution is undervalued. The more curious you are about the shortcomings in your failed relationships, the more likely you are not to repeat those same mistakes in your relationship with your team.

“Curiosity is the engine of achievement.” – Ken Robinson

2. Get Honest

First and foremost, you need to be honest with yourself in this process. Are there blind spots that need to be addressed? Is there an area of your communication or behavior that you’ve gotten feedback on from former partners, friends, or family members that you’ve ignored or felt triggered by? These may be things that have made you feel misunderstood or things that make you feel frustrated with a sense of “here we go again!”. While you don’t have to accept these things as wholly true for you, they may be worth examining to see if there’s maybe a kernel of truth that could support you in growing your awareness to become a better leader. 

It’s important to note that everyone has blind spots. Remaining open to discovering them and working through them is what separates leaders from the pack. Leadership is about being able to make healthy decisions for the collective while setting an example for the behavior you expect from the group. However, you can only do that if you learn how to listen intentionally and invest in your personal growth. These may not be the most fun aspects of yourself to unearth, but uncovering where your blind spots are and being honest with yourself about where you need to learn how to do better will make all of the difference in your leadership style. 

As you go through this process, remember, it’s not personal. All of this feedback and all of these discoveries are coming up to help you grow. It’s in this process that you will become a stronger leader, and your team will respect you more for it. 

3. Get Clear

Now that you have the information you needed from your failed relationships, it’s time to put an action plan in place. If you did reach out to former partners, friends, colleagues, or family members, thank them for their experience and transparency. Give apologies and make amends where necessary, and remember this is not information for you to punish yourself with. This feedback is simply data for you to filter through so that you can take action to become a better leader. 

Ask yourself:

  • What are the patterns or traits that are most pressing to shift now?
  • What can I do to shift these habits in a healthy way?
  • Do I need support to make these shifts, and if so, what does that look like? Therapy? Coaching? Charts? Etc.
  • How am I going to hold myself accountable for making these shifts?
  • How can I implement a feedback system that allows my team members to feel safe, but also be heard?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have created your list of priorities, identified the support system you need, and noted the systems of change and accountability that will support you in this process. 

Looking at past failures can be difficult, especially when it comes to relationships. But this is an opportunity to strengthen your present and future relationships so that you can step more into your leadership role with the confidence that you’re doing right by your team.

Deidre Sirianni is a TEDx Speaker, leadership coach, and spiritual guide, serving a community of impact-driven entrepreneurs, coaches, leaders, and visionaries on their journey of healing, integrating change, and making a significant impact through their work. Deidre uses her over 10 years of experience in leadership development, holistic wellness, and human behavior to help clients overcome self-sabotaging behaviors and unresolved trauma that holds them back from being fulfilled and reaching their goals. Deidre has supported hundreds of people around the world on their journey of realizing their full potential. She’s spoken on global stages such as Envision Festival, Impact Festival, Consciousness Hacking, Influence, and her genius has been featured in Lululemon, Novus TV, and Alive Magazine. If you know that you have a big message to share with the world and you have trauma to heal, blocks to remove, behaviors patterns to transform, and gifts to activate within you, then click here to learn more.

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