All of us have a need for approval and acceptance. It is very traumatic to be deliberately marginalized, ostracized and just simply being ignored. The market place can be a ruthless space, where certain people for reasons best known to them, can conjure up the worst kind of things to make one feels totally rejected. In my own corporate journey, I had my fair share of rejection for reasons still unknown to me.

Herman Mellville once said ‘’ He who never experienced rejection cannot be great. Rejection is the true test of greatness.”

When you are confronted with a set of circumstances where rejection is imminent, it triggers a lot of questions in your mind. For example:

  1. You were due for promotion and for no reason of your own, you are simply overlooked. Some valid questions come to mind; am I incapable of doing the job, why does my boss do this to me, is this the reward for all the sacrifices I have made?
  2. Your company pitched for a lucrative deal and notwithstanding your superior service offering and appropriate pricing, your competitors who are nowhere near your standard in the industry and even with a higher pricing, gets the deal. What’s wrong with us?
  3. At home, you thought that your marriage has weathered the early years of consolidation and you are set to move onto the next lap until death do us part. Out of the blue, your marriage experiences ferocious turbulences where your spouse files for a divorce under the guise of irreconcilable differences. Am I unattractive, not good enough, what’s wrong with me?
  4. You had great plans for your teenage daughter and was preparing adequately from a financial point of view to send her to the best university in the country. In her matric year you found out that she is pregnant and all your plans for her, imploded like a house of cards. This triggered a lot of questions in your mind and you even entertained the idea that you have failed as parent.

It is just natural to attempt connecting the dots and ask these critical questions as these episodes sometimes play itself out one after the other. Why this? What have I done to deserve it? How come that people I trusted and in whom I have invested so much, can do this to me? I must admit that at times when hit by a bout of rejection, I lapsed into quite a couple of pity parties when all these unanswered questions raced through my mind.

History is very instructive about people who found direction in their rejection:

Beethoven’s teacher declared him hopeless as a composer.

Walt Disney was fired by his newspaper editor for his alleged lack of imagination.

Michael Jordan was dropped from his high school basketball team.

Steve Jobs was fired unceremoniously from the company he founded.

Albert Einstein’s parents thought he was mentally handicapped because he didn’t speak till he was four years old.

The Bible also has many examples of people who found direction in their rejection and changed the direction of history eg. Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Rahab, to name but a few.

I will be the first to admit that rejection is not an easy space to be in. Having myself gone through some trying times of betrayal by people close to me, confronted with family crises when I least expected it, ruthlessly targeted by colleagues who had an overdose of professional jealousy….. the list is long.


  • Do not get into an academic thesis about it. Most of the times it might not even have anything to do with you. It might well be that people cannot come to grips with their own internal issues and project it on to you. Do not become conspiratorial because ‘’ …ALL things work together for good to those that love the Lord…” Romans 8:28. Please note ALL things. You might not fully understand the rationale for the prevailing set of circumstances but in retrospect, I have on many occasions discovered, that there is a purpose behind everything.
  • Depersonalize the episode. You are not defined by your current reality. You are an Olympic champion in training, whose path to the winner’s podium is a long and challenging, yet life changing one. Your life experiences and mine, is the foundation on which authentic leadership is shaped.
  • Do not become an honorary member of the Alliance of the Wounded. Surround yourself with people whose judgment you trust; leveraging objective feedback helps to put things into perspective.
  • Remain focused on the bigger picture. Your temporary setback can greatly assists in you tapping into your inner resources and make tactical adjustments to stay on course.
  • Guard your heart and never allow any bitterness to take root in your life. My Pastor likes to say, bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
  • Maintain an attitude of gratitude. Call to remembrance all the good and positive things that’s happening in your life. You will soon discover that there is much more going for you then that which is against you. There is no better antidote for discouragement like gratitude.

The greatness of leadership is in its humility. Rejection has this rare ability to develop humility in us. One of the greatest leaders whose leadership journey went through very challenging cycles, is Moses. Notwithstanding all the seemingly insurmountable challenges, serious episodes of rejection and even failures that he had to endure, Numbers 12: 3 describes his life as follows ‘’ The man Moses was very humble, more than any man was on the face of the earth”

What would you like to be remembered for?

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