Leading Through Pain and Loss

Many people will do a variety of things to avoid pain. As leaders, we know that it will be part of the growth of our organization; the one thing that is consistent is change. Not all change is painful or involves loss, although if we are honest with ourselves, we will find that pain and loss are in our most difficult decisions. At any level of leadership this is true, from the boardroom to the front-line; leaders make decisions that affect the lives of people they work with.

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So how can we take pain and loss and turn into a catalyst for transformation. Our first example is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. More than anything else, historians say, Gandhi proved that one man has the power to take on an empire, using both ethics and intelligence. It’s reported he was arrested as many as 19 times, jailed 13, for a total of 2338 days or 6.4 years.

An example of pain and loss in innovation; Steve Jobs. He was given up for adoption at birth. Shortly after Steve was placed for adoption, his biological parents married and had another child.

In 1976, when Jobs was 21, Apple was born in the Jobs family garage, funding their venture by Jobs selling his Volkswagen bus and Wozniak selling his beloved scientific calculator.

In 1985 he left the company he co-founded when his position in the company was marginalized.


In 1996, Jobs returned to Apple as it’s CEO and once again turned Apple into one of the most recognized brands on the planet.

As leaders/managers we make difficult decisions daily; some are painful and some involve loss. What is the difference between a manager and a leader?


Our next look will be at Ford Motor Company. This iconic organization, once broken staged a successful turnaround under the leadership of the CEO Alan Mulally. He knew, that looking at things that were painful to discuss, was the foundation of forward movement.

Here are three examples of pain and loss. They brought forth transformation, innovation and a corporate turnaround. We will offer questions on how you have experienced pain and loss, how you were able to turn it around and what was the one thing that made a difference?

Sometimes our confusion about who we should be or how we are meant to appear to others causes us pain or loss. So how do we go about finding out who we truly are and how we view ourselves; with my background, I would say to find a coach to work with you. If you’re looking at the overall health of your organization I would recommend using Internal Coaches; they know the goals and vision of an organization better than an external coach could and they are much more cost effective. Having trained and certified coaches with tools like Strength-finders can bring tremendous value to the organization. Strengths coaching can help in understanding the talents within teams and help others within the team also understand their teammates better and the talents that all bring.

My last example will be a leader in medicine. His personal pain and loss has taken him to do for many, what other physicians are unwilling to do. He experiences loss more than most of us may, because of the type of medicine he practices. His patients mean so much to him, because he has experienced firsthand what it’s like when a doctor gives up.

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