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Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Leadership: Overcoming Adversity
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

All leaders eventually face hardship. Great leaders overcome those hardships and improve themselves in the process. As a dentist, you have to look at your weakest moments as opportunities rather than limitations. Every obstacle, and every failure, is another step toward your ultimate destination: success. Not everyone is as good at handling adverse conditions. Those who turn adversity to their advantage are clearly the winners. So how do we “win” when things seem very difficult?

The truth is that no one can elude adversity forever, and we naturally and appropriately view adversity as a bad thing. After all, it has the connotations of weakness, hardship, suffering, misery and sorrow. However, the greatest personalities of our time have asserted repeatedly that hard times build qualities such as grit, determination, resolve and perseverance.

Whether you live your life on the edge or are someone who prefers playing things safe, life will never be free of hardship. Life – and yes, your dental practice – will inevitably and eventually throw unpleasant surprises and challenges in your direction. Sometimes, it will be your personal life at risk of going berserk while, at other times, you will find it difficult to manage your professional life. Maybe you feel confident that you’ve hired good staff and the office will now run itself, but then are shocked to find you missed some crucial bits of information. Now you can’t seem to figure out how to move those staff out and go back to the drawing board and hire better people. Or perhaps a family health emergency is threatening your retirement savings. Such situations often invoke feelings of despair and self-pity.

While it is difficult to avoid such emotions, quality leaders make it a point to learn from these situations and move on. What make quality leaders unique from others are their strong values and principles, which they reflexively go to when faced with an adverse situation. Here are some ways to face difficult situations in a more powerful way. Imbibe these principles in your life and you will see a remarkable increase in your resilience and success.

1. Determination: Actions speak louder than words. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. There are a thousand similar quotes that postulate the power of persistence. The one quality that will guarantee your success is the willingness to stick with it, and to refuse to settle for anything less than your dream. If you are determined to make it through any struggle, no matter the magnitude, then you will.

2. Take responsibility: When people face adversity they often shy away from owning the responsibility of their actions that have led to the situation. Instead of blaming others for your professional setbacks or finding comfort in the notion of your own misfortune, be mindful of behaving in ways that work in your favor. While the situation might be something that you could not have prevented, responding to it in a constructive manner will help you channel your energy in the right direction. The more of it you own, the better guarded you’ll be against the situation ever recurring.

3. Treat negative feedback as a gift: Failure is not a judgment of your abilities. It is a response to your actions telling you to make better use of your abilities the next time. Negative feedback is similar. If you receive feedback that you must improve, don’t make the mistake of hearing this as negative judgment. It may feel like a personal attack, however, you must interpret the negative feedback as a learning opportunity and then set about creating a personal improvement plan.

4. Focus on your strengths: People often work on improving their weaknesses while ignoring their strengths. While improving your weak points is helpful and the natural go-to when trying to improve, your innate strengths are what will truly carry you through difficult times. Great leaders focus on the positive side of things and how they can leverage what they already do well.

5. Identify new goals: If you feel you have stalled out in life and struggle to find meaning, this is the perfect time to realign your goals and establish a new direction to move on. Seeking professional assistance, such as leadership coaching or even personal therapy, can be quite beneficial. It is a strength, not a weakness, to reach out for help when in need. This is what great leaders do, every time.

Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at jgalephd@mckenziemgmt.com

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