Is Your Team Failing Elegantly? Seven Leadership Mistakes That Wear Away at Your Company’s Will to Win

No one wants to lose. That’s true whether you’re talking about the Super Bowl, a friendly basketball game with the neighbors, or a footrace between eight-year-olds. Yes, the desire to win is embedded in the human psyche. So why is it that in the business world the ‘win or (almost) die trying’ principle seems to falter? Why do so many talented, well-led teams, enterprises, and organizations – many of them with clear, reasonable goals – fail to win victories that should have been easily within their grasps?

It’s because they’ve been infected with a disease I call ‘failing elegantly.’

Failing elegantly is a very sophisticated and veiled set of coping behaviors by individuals, the purpose of which is to avoid the oncoming train of embarrassment when the cover comes off the lousy results that we’d prefer no one ever see. In other words, it’s a fancy way to lose.

Essentially, this debilitating syndrome sets in when people stop believing they can be successful and start devoting their energy to how best to lose.

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About the Author

John Hamm is one of the top leadership experts in Silicon Valley. He was named one of the country’s Top 100 venture capitalists in 2009 by AlwaysOn and has led investments in many successful high-growth companies as a partner at several Bay Area VC firms. Hamm has also been a CEO, a board member at over thirty companies, and a CEO adviser and executive coach to senior leaders at companies such as Documentum, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, TaylorMade-adidas Golf and McAfee. John teaches leadership at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. To read John Hamm’s full biography, click here.

2 replies
  1. E. Keith Owens
    E. Keith Owens says:

    But all too often things dont go as planned – and when first this project and then that project veer off course teams start showing signs of a disease that can kill execution. Thats true whether youre talking about the Super Bowl a friendly basketball game with the neighbors or a footrace between eight-year-olds.


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