By Steve Adubato, PhD

One major challenge many leaders face is handling rejection or how to react when given an answer they were not expecting. For great leaders, it's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. This couldn’t be truer than when, as a leader, you are dealing with a “no” in a business or professional situation, particularly when hours, days and even weeks or months have been spent trying to land a particular client or account. Clearly, no one wants to hear “no.” Yet, the exceptional leader is able to take rejection and turn it into something positive. Consider the following leadership tools for seeing “no” as an opportunity to grow and come back stronger than ever:

  • Don’t take it personally. Very often, the person rejecting you or your organization is not doing so on a personal level, but they are saying “no” for a variety of other reasons related to economics, market conditions, or internal factors in their organization. Never forget that many decisions are beyond your control. Don’t get down on yourself – a negative attitude can impact your entire team.
  • Proactively engage the person who rejected you. Be confident and secure enough to ask WHY you were turned down. Having a positive attitude puts you in the frame of mind to say, “Is there anything I need to know that can help me improve myself or my organization?” Great leaders are lifelong learners and taking the time to reassess your leadership approach will likely produce better outcomes moving forward.
  • Resist the urge to blame others. No one is inspired or motivated by hearing a leader say that it was someone else’s fault as to why things didn’t turn out right. Your team members as well as key stakeholders are looking to you for strength and moral support.
  • Pick yourself back up. After you’ve had a chance to lick your wounds and learn as much as you can about why you got a “no,” get right back on the horse. If you obsess over a rejection or set back, you are likely to carry it with you when dealing with your next challenge.
  • Put your energy into moving forward. It is not enough to say you will take this experience with rejection and learn from it. More specifically, write down exactly what you will and won’t do in the future when faced with a comparable circumstance. Doing this will have a powerful impact on your leadership style and ultimately increase your odds of being more successful next time around.
  • Keep your emotions in check. Being rejected in any venue can be highly emotional. However, it is not okay to completely lose it. Rather than letting your emotions drive how you will react, ask yourself beforehand; “How will I deal with ‘losing’ or hearing ‘no’ if that is the response I receive?” Some would call this negative or pessimistic thinking. I disagree. I call it being realistic. Being prepared. While you won’t know exactly how you will react until it happens, learning to manage your emotions when dealing with ‘no’ is an important leadership lesson that can make a big difference in how we lead others as well as ourselves.

Ron Beit, CEO & Founding Partner, RBH Group shares his leadership advice about drive and overcoming obstacles.