Recovering from Failure

In a perfect world, academic leaders would move from one success to another, with all their calculated risks producing incredible results. In the world we actually inhabit, however, the truth is not quite this rosy. Our plans can fail; sometimes they can fail spectacularly. Administrators who have never known a colossal failure are indeed fortunate. But those who have not had even a taste of significant disappointment are probably either new to their positions or unwilling to take chances that could ultimately benefit all their stakeholders. President Kennedy’s response to the Bay of Pigs disaster is deservedly famous: “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.” But what do you do when you’re responsible for one of these orphans? How do you get your career back on track after a major failure?

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