Recently I was coaching James, an influential and very successful leader, after he lost a competitive election for a prestigious position. It was a well-fought election. He thought he was the most qualified candidate and had the most to bring to the table to benefit the voters. But the voters didn’t feel the same way. They chose someone else.

When I started coaching James, I quickly picked up that he was disappointed and was beginning to wonder whether he was a good leader or not. He wondered if he should ever run for any elected office again or not.

Before I continue, let me ask you a question. Have you ever competed and came up short? Have you ever been in an election in which other colleagues or fellow citizens had to pick among several candidates? If not, you soon will. It doesn’t even have to be something that is an official election or competition. People make choices all the time. Soon, the people around you are going to choose someone else over you.

When that happens, whether you plan for it or not, and whether you really cared much about being chosen or not, just that mere fact that you weren’t chosen will leave you wondering if you were competent or not. And how you process it will have a significant impact on your future outlook and willingness to engage life fully and compete in situations that you could actually win.

Below I share ten things that I mentored James about which he says, “transformed his paradigm”.

When you are not chosen, remember this:

  1. Leadership is contextual.
  2. People are motivated by their own interests. People vote for themselves, not for the leader. Their personal interests drive their choices.
  3. People vote with their feelings, not their minds.
  4. People often vote to solve today’s problems, not tomorrow’s.
  5. Elections don’t choose the best person for a job, only the one the voters think is best for them. Losing doesn’t mean you weren’t the best candidate for the job. People don’t always choose what is good for them. For example, look at the American presidential election of 2016. Hillary Clinton was obviously more qualified for the job. She’d had a distinguished career as a lawyer, former first lady of a state, then the former first lady of the U.S, then U.S. senator from New York, then served as secretary of state of the united states. Plus she seemed to be a more decent and moral choice. But she didn’t win the election. Yes, she got the popular vote, but not the electoral votes that mattered more. The best candidates don’t win, only the candidates the most influential voters think serves their interests best will win.
  6. The tides of life have a huge influence on election results. If the election were carried in a different season, you may have won it even with the same people.
  7. There are communities and relationships out there where you will be the favorite candidate chosen to lead.
  8. History is full of people who triumphed after first losing many times. Think of President Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, and Thomas Edison.
  9. Your future is bright if you don’t let the past hold you back.
  10. Don’t give up competing when it matters.


Related article: What do I mean by leadership is contextual?