Didn’t Get the Promotion? It Could Be the Best Thing for an Aspiring Servant Leader

Didn’t Get the Promotion? It Could Be the Best Thing for an Aspiring Servant Leader  no text 1920x1080.jpg

Most of us have had the experience of pursuing a promotion but falling short. The lessons learned in an unsuccessful run at moving up the corporate ladder can be exactly what propels you to your next best opportunity. Before you pull a Kevin James from the movie “Hitch” and abruptly quit, consider some benefits and lessons learned from failed promotion pursuits. When used correctly, they can catapult your career and progression as a servant leader.

Lesson #1: Awareness
Servant leaders evolve by becoming self-aware and adapting to feedback. A failed job pursuit provides feedback and helps you identify your gaps and the organization’s priorities. How often have you heard someone lament over how long it’s been since they’ve interviewed for a position? They express uncertainty about the process, their credentials and their competence to perform in a new opportunity.  These people would likely tell you they wished they interviewed more often to, at minimum, stay sharp.  They’re right. The interview process, both for internal opportunities and external companies can be valuable, keeping you sharp and ready when opportunities arise. Even if you don’t get the call for an interview, the process of completing the application, updating your resume and evaluating your accomplishments can serve not only to keep you sharp but reveal strengths and areas you need to pay more attention to as you grow as a leader. 

Lesson #2: Opportunity

Unless your manager has regular conversations with you about your career objectives, chances are you don’t discuss your career goals much with your employer. Participating in the interview process within your company, even if you are not selected, can signal to others your readiness and interest in promotional opportunities. The internal interview process is your announcement proclaiming your career advancement interests. Being on record as wanting to move up allows decision-makers to consider you for future opportunities.

Lesson #3: Maturity 

Your response to disappointment signals your readiness to lead. The sting of an unsuccessful run at a promotion can linger. Sometimes, the successful candidate is a colleague, maybe even someone you trained or who has less tenure. These factors add fuel to the fire of an already disappointed state, but with the right frame of mind, you can turn this in your favor. It is said we are interviewed daily, meaning our actions are always under watch. If this is true, for the servant leader there is no time more important to have your act together then when you are perceived to be disappointed. Countless people have lost or gained future opportunities based on how they responded to not getting a promotion. Even worse, they have lost followers.

Lesson #4: Humility
The experience of disappointment can produce lifelong benefits for aspiring servant leaders. The self-reflection that often coincides with disappointment can generate humility that cannot otherwise be obtained. Humility often translates into someone who won’t find lower tasks offensive to their role or position. Humility seeks the best interest of others and the organization above self-interests. The humble person waits to be invited to the table instead of demanding a seat at it. Sound familiar? This is a cornerstone of the servant leader’s approach.   

Failures train you for your next best opportunity by allowing you to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, what appears to be a failure is an audition for a future opportunity — maybe one even better than the one initially pursued. The maturity you display when disappointed at work signals to decision-makers that you are emotionally competent and capable of seeing the long view. Finally, the inward change spawned by disappointment helps make your pursuits less about you and more about the organization. Disappointments happen, but you can learn to live with them and from them.  

Malcolm A. Hankins is a public servant, non-profit chair and keynote speaker. His focus is on leadership effectiveness, employee relations, community engagement and ministry.