What Happens When You Go for a Big Leadership Role and Don’t Get It?

Zach Hughes
3 min readSep 15, 2023


I was just talking to a friend recently who didn’t get a leadership role he applied for. In this particular case, the fact that he went for it was very public among his peers. It was a long shot. There was an incumbent with a clear advantage. My friend was the underdog. He put all he had into it, but it didn’t work out. Not this time, anyway.

This story stuck with me, not because it’s a unique story. I’m sure many reading this have heard similar stories recently. This stuck with me because there are some serious leadership attributes on display here. I’m going to use this article to explain what I mean. We’ve got a few lessons to learn.


Leaders take risks. Playing it safe isn’t leadership. Getting good at taking risks takes practice. In the case of reaching for a higher position, you aren’t betting with company resources. The thing on the line is your very identity.

Am I good enough?

Long before anyone else can believe in you, you must believe in yourself. This isn’t just “throwing your hat in the ring” and hoping for the best. That rarely works. You must know in your heart that you can do the job. You have to believe that they’d be lucky to have you in that role.

Is it a stretch? Sure, but you’ve been stretched before. You’re willing to bet on yourself. Does this sound cocky or arrogant? I don’t think so. I think it sounds compelling. Remember, if you don’t believe in yourself, don’t be surprised when no one else does either. Belief is required to be a contender. My friend believed.

What will people think?

Sometimes, we can go for big roles, and no one will know if we fail (besides the hiring panel). That’s pretty safe. But what if it’s public? In my friend’s case, it was public due to the nature of the circumstances. Then the stakes are even higher.

Think to yourself, “If I fail, everyone will know that I tried and failed.” Does that give you pause? Does that make you chicken out? It better not.

Leadership is a public act. So much of what we do is on display. What will people think? Who cares. People will think what they think. But you can bet on this: Some (not all) will be inspired by the fact that you went for it. It’ll encourage them to go for it (whatever it is) in their own life.

Getting good at losing

Part of getting good at leadership is getting good at losing. I’m a very competitive person. I really like winning, but I’ve gotten good at losing. If I’m not regularly losing, then I am only trying to accomplish easy stuff. I’m not growing. If you can’t immediately think of several times you recently lost, then you aren’t aiming high enough. If you need to get better at losing, I wrote a whole article about that. Check it out here.

The calling

I’ve written many times on this blog, that I believe leadership is a calling. It’s something we do because we can and because the world needs us to. I’m a man of faith, so I often believe God puts opportunities in front of me and compels me to pursue them.

Sometimes they work out. Sometimes they don’t. I’m obedient to the call and I put the results in God’s hands.

Look in the mirror

You just went for a big opportunity. It didn’t work out. What does that make you? It makes you a courageous leader who answered the call, took a risk, believed in yourself, ignored the naysayers, got beaten, and lived to fight another day. This makes you stronger. Keep going.

Read this article on my blog site or listen to it on my podcast🎙️



Zach Hughes

Technology Leader at CHS. Passionate about leadership and innovation. Posts are my own.