A Few Lessons on Leadership We Can Take From Ronda Rousey’s Surprise Knockout

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Nov 24, 2015

It was one of those sporting events that seemed to captivate the world.

Even people who didn’t have a clue what UFC stands for were watching and weighing in on Ronda Rousey’s fight with Holly Holm this month in Australia. Rousey entered the night 12-0, a heavy favorite whose last three fights had lasted only a combined 64 seconds!

But Holm, the humble “Preacher’s Daughter,” brought strength, power, stamina, and, most important, a masterfully executed strategy. Rousey came away with her first professional loss in the worst way imaginable, a “lights-out” knockout that left her with enough injuries to warrant a lengthy medical suspension.

It happens all the time — in sports, in business, in politics, in law, in any field where everyone is trying to get ahead. One moment you’re on top of the world, with every advantage and nothing but blue skies in view, and then POW! A huge loss and the next thing you know you’re on the ground trying to figure out what just happened.

6 ways to respond to a knockout loss

How you respond in that situation says a lot about who you are. Here are some lessons from the Rousey loss, and sports in general, for the next time you find yourself on the wrong end of a knockout punch:

  1. First, stop the bleeding. You can’t even think about taking care of anything else until you’ve stabilized the situation enough to take a few deep breaths. Bring your team together, even briefly. Emotions run high when things go wrong, and it’s important to set an example of calm confidence. No knee jerk reactions.
  2. Assess your injuries. In the immediate aftermath of a major problem, there’s a lot of distraction as people begin to process what’s happened. The noise level may be high, with a lot of opinions about what really occurred, what it means, and why it was allowed to happen. Stay in communication with your people, but try to keep everyone focused on understanding the situation so you can begin to address it more substantially.
  3. Be humble and accept responsibility. If you made mistakes, own up to them. No one wants to follow a leader that takes the credit for every victory but assigns blame for every loss.
  4. Learn from mistakes. Most of the time, the only good to come from a disaster is the opportunity to learn, but the only way to learn is to study what went wrong. Get detailed analytics, but also listen to the thoughts of others who were there. Nobody likes dwelling on problems, but multiple perspectives will give you valuable insight.
  5. Stay flexible. It may be time to change things up. Be open to a new strategy. Once you have a clear understanding of the event, look at what you need to do differently so it doesn’t happen again. Recruit a diverse group to bring the benefit of their perspectives in addressing change. Don’t take any plausible idea off the table until it’s had a chance to be heard.
  6. Get back in the ring. Anyone would feel anxious after a huge setback, especially when it comes seemingly out of the blue. But it’s important to take what you’ve learned, get your changes lined up, and get back into the game.

You can always control how you respond. You can let failure define you, or you can walk away a wiser person, knowing how to do better next time.

This originally appeared on the Jeremy Kingsley blog.