Let me tell you about Alex and Nico.
Both joined our team for the summer between the first and second year of their MBA at IESE business school, one of the world’s top programs.
Both are among the most gifted and simply amazing talents I’ve ever met.
And both have something in common (apart from studying at a world-class business school and being very smart): they know how failure tastes...
Throughout the last decade I’ve been blessed to interact with some truly outstanding people. I’ve reported to, managed, served and competed with world-class individuals and teams, and encountered mind-blowing talent across different industries and companies.
Still, Nico and Alex outperform the majority of those. Why?
What’s required to be a “rockstar” leader in 2020?
The best people I’ve met in my career have one thing in common. They all failed at some point.
I’ve seen lots of picture-perfect CVs like the one to the left. In earlier days of my career, I was impressed, excited, and maybe even a bit jealous, whenever such a profile reached my desk, my inbox or my LinkedIn feed.
Yet over time I began to notice that many times the character behind that CV has a few particular skills that stand out: a knack for self-marketing and an instinct for corporate politics.
These people with what appeared to be impressive track records actually seemed to prioritize building a favorable reputation and climbing the ladder within an organization at the sacrifice of working on actual solutions, generating value, challenging the status quo and “rattling the cage.”
Especially this latter point is an underrated ability. Challenging your corporate mainstream from time to time might not put you on top of your manager’s “list of favorite people,” but when done properly it certainly contributes to your organization’s self-awareness and evolution.
This “challenging the mainstream” mentality reminds me of the guy with a weird love for black turtlenecks who had decent ideas from time to time.
Of course, this quote makes a great clickbait, but what does it actually mean?
If organizations want to grow and improve, they need talent throughout the company that is capable of taking responsibility, making brave decisions, and welcoming uncertainty, whether it comes in the form of pursuing a new idea or simply disagreeing with a superior.
My personal idea of a great leader can take many shapes and forms, but this ability to dare, take ownership, and navigate the unknown, is a must.
And thus, we come to failure.
Any person, leaders especially, who dares to take difficult or risky decisions, will be wrong from time to time. Whoever truly tries will fail from time to time. That’s just the law of large numbers. The nature of life. The important thing is being willing to try, and growing and adapting when something doesn’t work.
A CV that doesn’t include failures and missteps, or at least make me raise an eyebrow, tells me that maybe someone hasn’t taken enough risks. Meanwhile a CV with a few “bumps and bruises” tells me that someone likely left their comfort zone and learned a few lessons along the way.
To me this is what differentiates raw talent from great teammates, and it’s also part of what makes Alex and Nico special to me. Yes, both are receiving a great education, and both are naturally intelligent and gifted, but both also happened to experience big career “setbacks.”
Alex tried to found and scale a crypto-currency platform in the Netherlands and Nico tried to become a Magistrate of the Congress in Spain. Each of these endeavors entailed investing a lot of time, emotion, and energy, and it probably felt pretty depressing when they came to a close.
Yet it was exactly these experiences that fascinated me from the moment I met them during our interviews. In their failures I saw a willingness to dare and get their hands dirty and the humility to learn from their experiences.
It’s no stretch to say that in the process of failing, they succeeded becoming a much stronger version of themselves. Today, neither of them shies away from exploring the unknown, and they showed it during their time with us this summer. In the middle of the pandemic and the general uncertainty of 2020, they both dove headfirst into a new industry, new team, and new roles.
And in their case, my entirely unsophisticated theory proved correct once again. During their 3 months with Logward they had a massive impact on our product and culture. They are, in fact, great leaders, by both mine and Steve Jobs’ criteria. On more than one occasion they pushed us, and me in particular, to see certain things, both big and small, differently.
I would take people like Nico and Alex on my team over the “flawless CV” every time without hesitation, and I couldn’t be prouder to work with the rest of the talented and daring team at Logward, even if not all of us failed as glamorously as these two.
If you are curious what impact our little mass of talent can have on your supply chain, please reach out. We’re happy to show you our software and share our thoughts on how your supply chain technology can transform the whole company.
What do you think about failure? Got any good stories? And last, but not least: to all people with picture-perfect and flawless CV. We’re hiring, so try to prove me wrong.