Leadership: Using Loss and Failure as Springboards to Opportunity

Failure and loss can be a great opportunity to learn and grow. It is just a question of addressing the failure with the right mindset. I have over twenty years history as a successful senior leader in health care and as an entrepreneur. I have experienced failures and losses of epic proportions, yet by maintaining a positive attitude I have been able to overcome them and grow. Being positive is a leadership quality that needs development. I hope to be able to share my experiences as an example of this.

When I was 27, I had already experienced a bit of operational success as a physical therapist. I had a number of successes at turning around and improving clinics, regions, and hospitals in various senior level management positions. It only seemed natural that when a local rehabilitation hospital CEO job came available, that I would get it. I did.

Within two weeks the hospital was acquired by a national company that already had a facility in the area. Rather than lead the hospital I was at, I was directed to work with the CEO from the other hospital and come up with a plan to shutter one of the facilities. I worked diligently with the other CEO to make this happen. When the day came to implement our program, the other facility was closed, but my job was also eliminated.

I could have wallowed in self-pity and been ruined. Instead, I used it as an opportunity to relocate closer to family. I took a lesser position that allowed me outside time to be creative and fulfilled. Within two years, I started and developed a company that I was proud of. I ran and expanded that company, along with my happiness, for the next five years 1 month and 29 days.

Hurricane Katrina came ashore on August 29, 2005. The eye came ashore over my home and business that I developed. I escaped with my family, a few stuffed animals, three days of clothing, and some family albums. Everything else was washed away. I could have used this loss as an excuse for wallowing and a life unfulfilled. Instead, in rather short order, I framed it as an opportunity. I was reminded of a billboard I had read once that said, “Only when you lose everything are you free to do anything,” and treated it as such. We relocated to a new part of the country. I went back to school and attained the Master’s degree I had always wanted. I ascended back into a senior leadership position.

My experiences with failure and loss could have ended in very different manner had I not viewed them as opportunities rather than conclusions. Leaders need to develop this ability to foresee sunny days ahead even during the darkest of storms. Doing so will help create unexpected and welcomed tomorrows.

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