It's a struggle to survive in long-term care, and maybe that's a good thing

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

We live in a nation that worships people associated with success. We tend to name buildings, highways and even states after such high-level achievers. Perhaps rightfully so. They are the few who show the rest of us what the so-called right stuff is all about.

But lately, we've been learning more about what actually fuels success. Turns out it often has less to do with innate exceptionalism than more mundane ingredients. And as long-term care operators mull how to stay ahead in the future, the news here is actually optimistic.

First there was Malcolm Gladwell's “Outliers,” which essentially turned the myth of success being the domain of the best and the brightest on its head. In example after example, Gladwell showed that commonly-held notions about high-level achievement fail to hold up under close examination.

His view is that business superstars do not lie outside ordinary experience. In fact, they are the products of history, community, opportunity and legacy. His conclusion is that the success of such individuals is “grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky — but all critical to making them who they are.”

Now comes Steven Snyder's “Leadership and the Art of Struggle.”

Snyder notes that while leadership is often challenging, there are strong taboos that keep us from talking openly and honestly about this reality. After all, who wants to appear weak or lacking in confidence?

Thanks to these unhelpful taboos, it becomes accepted that leaders should be perfect, and that struggle should be somehow hidden from view. Snyder notes that exceptional leaders understand this paradox. They realize that the struggle is what unlocks the potential for the greatest growth.

We have certainly seen plenty of evidence to support this notion in long-term care. When Medicaid became the path to insolvency, more operators began tapping into Medicare. Hospitals were never seen as partners in the past, but that is changing every day. The field's entry into hospice, assisted living and many new service areas stem from earlier struggles.

For senior care, the lesson should be obvious: Struggle is not the enemy. In fact, it may be the one thing that allows the field to survive.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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