Leadership: Disappointments & Setbacks (Part 1)

Disappointments and setbacks happen all the time in life. You may have time in your personal life to throw a hissy-fit, pout, and even mourn the change, but there is no time and place in business for that if you want to succeed. Time moves on, bills need to get paid, and decisions must be made.

You’re not expected to like these changes, but you are expected to know what to do when they come your way. Even more importantly, you must know how to lead others through the turmoil if you want to keep things going as smoothly as possible.

How you handle emotionally, skillfully, and tactfully all the pressures that come with disappointments and setbacks reflect both your knowledge of your business and your leadership skills.

Are you cool and calm? Are you the deer in the headlights?

It is important to remember that disappointments and setbacks will happen, and often there is nothing you can do to prevent them from happening. When they do, you’ll need to set your ego down, let go of the defensive posturing, and lead.

You will be a better leader when you react appropriately to issues with employees, customers, and vendors (Part 1); conduct exit surveys (Part 2); and have other options in place (Part 3).

When They “Poof” –

I’ve worked a variety of jobs in my life. One of the most memorable lessons I learned came from watching what happened when one boss was mad. When he entered the room, he stirred things up in a whirlwind before he left. Sometimes tears flowed. After he left, no one felt like working. Murmurs and grumbling could be heard. More time was lost in the workday because folks were unproductive as they dealt with their emotions. His technique to get things moving might have worked for robots or folks with repetitive jobs, but not for jobs that required folks to think.

No matter how awesome you believe yourself and your business to be, customers won’t always stay, vendors will not always be able to meet your needs, and employees will move on. If you lose a big contract, your company may suffer financially. If you lose a vendor, your products may be late to market. If you lose an employee, your team will need to pick up the slack. How you react will make all the difference in how quickly and successfully your team will move forward. It’s up to you to set the stage.

We all tend to respond in 3 ways: emotionally, spiritually, and either logically or illogically.

As a leader, you will need to keep your emotions in check. Drama will hurt your team, and hold everyone back. An emotional response will make it harder to think because you and your team will focus on the emotions instead of the solution. Your team will react to whatever you put before them. You’ll need present a cool response with a solution-based direction.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
Proverbs 15:1-2

Just as a soft answer turns away wrath, if you react in a negative way, they will too.

As a leader, you will want to consider the appropriate spiritual response. Vengeance, grudges, etc. don’t do your business any good, and they are not the response that Jesus would have us to have.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Luke 6:37-38

You will want to lead with understanding, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

As a leader, you’ll need to flesh-out that solution-based direction (mentioned earlier). Let your team play a role in giving form and wings to the solution. It’s the involvement that they need to help them keep moving. As they bring input to the table, be sure to delegate well. You’ll all make great strides as you work together.


The challenge is to lead by keeping your emotions so that everyone will benefit. Be sure to wrap forgiveness, mercy, and grace around your heart before you react. Lead others away from a negative response by responding positively and providing a solution-based direction. Involve your team in fleshing out the solution for the best possible outcome.

If you are the whole team, you’ll still reap a benefit by applying the same principles. In addition, you will want to surround yourself with positive, likeminded people. They may be able to help you flesh out the plan because of similar experiences that they’ve had.