How IMF chief Christine Lagarde dealt with rejection at a young age and learned from the experience

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Christine Lagarde is seen as one of the most powerful female leaders in the world today, but her story could've been very different.

Early on in her career, Lagarde applied to attend Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA), a prestigious college in France which prepares students for careers in senior civil service.

However, after reportedly failing to get in twice, Lagarde went on to join international law firm Baker & McKenzie, as an associate. ENA has seen many political leaders, French ministers and industry leaders walk through its doors.

If she had succeeded in being a civil servant, however, Lagarde may not have gone on to undertake such impressive roles as French finance minister, a lawyer and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Looking back now, the influential leader admitted to CNBC that her life wouldn't have seen "so many turns" if she ended up pursuing a career as a civil servant.

"My career might have been very boring had I attended that school, because there was certainly less opportunities to bifurcate, to move into another professional life," Christine Lagarde told CNBC's "Life Hacks Live" series at the Cannes Lions festival in France last week.

"You know, I've change the course of my professional life many times over: From being a practicing lawyer to being in (a) management position eventually leading Baker McKenzie on a global basis, to then being drafted in government as agriculture minister. Then as finance, economy and industry minister for one of the G-8 countries, and then managing director of the IMF," she added.

"So, if I had been a top notch civil servant, I would have continued being a civil servant and (well) my life might have been interesting, but it wouldn't have taken so many, so many turns."

Reflecting back on how she felt at the time, Lagarde admitted that she was disappointed in herself that she didn't get admitted into the school, but added that "you learn from your failure, and you should bounce back from a failure."

"I was ashamed (that I didn't get into ENA), but then I decided to just take it in and move on to something different. And there is a period of time for regretting and very soon you have to get out of that moment and look at this strength, and just get on with it. And do something different."

Christine Lagarde is now the managing director of the IMF, an organization which works upon fostering monetary cooperation worldwide, along with securing financial stability and promoting sustainable economic growth.

Life Hacks Live is a series produced by CNBC International for Facebook, where tomorrow's leaders get to ask some of the world's biggest influencers for advice. You can watch the full interview here.

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