For some, failure sparks success

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Barbara Corcoran overcame poverty and a series of setbacks to become one of the most powerful real estate brokers in America, heading New York-based the Corcoran Group.

Corcoran says she excels at failure and does her best in a crisis. Examples:
  • While waitressing at the Fort Lee Diner, Corcoran competed for tips with a buxom blonde. Men waited in line to be seated at the blonde’s tables, while Corcoran’s counter sat empty. When Corcoran whined about it, her mother gave her a marketing lesson: You need a gimmick. Corcoran put ribbons in her pigtails … and business improved.

  • At the diner, Corcoran met her future business partner, who lent her $1,000 to start a real estate business. Upon splitting up, Corcoran’s partner gave her “a great gift”: telling her she’d never succeed without him.

    It worked. Corcoran would have preferred death to failure.

    Even when the rest of the market was tanking, she pushed hard and survived.

  • In the late ’80s, Corcoran decided to sink her profits into videotaping her properties. That failed spectacularly. But in 1990, when her husband was playing war games on something called the Internet, Corcoran remembered her “rotten old videotapes” and became the first broker in America to advertise in cyberspace.

    By the time Corcoran’s competitors went online, she already had a well-known Web address and a dominant presence.
— Adapted from Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Practice of Leadership, Lin Coughlin, Ellen Wingard, Keith Hollihan, editors, Jossey-Bass.

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