David (Dave) Nordel, CMSgt, USAF (ret), RN, BSN, MS
Leadership Coach, Consultant & Keynote Motivational Speaker
Military transition expert
CEO of Max Fab Consulting (A Veteran owned proprietorship)

Leadership is a journey of perpetual learning and evolution. As someone who has led
large and small organizations, I’ve learned that imperfections and mistakes are simply
part of the process. They arise not from malice but from gaps in knowledge or
experience. This understanding has been crucial in my leadership approach,
emphasizing that leadership is not just a role but a practice—continuously striving for
improvement through courage, critical conversations, self-evaluation, and an
unwavering commitment to growth.

This past week, I had the distinct honor of speaking at the Montana Medical Group
Management Association’s (MTMGMA) annual conference, aptly themed “From Surviving
to Thriving.” This theme alone speaks volumes about the progressive mindset of this
gathering of healthcare professionals. It reflects a robust understanding of their
challenges and a proactive desire to transcend them by embracing change and new

The healthcare sector, particularly management, often operates in modes of survival
due to the inherent stresses and high stakes of the industry. However, the MTMGMA
has recognized something crucial, which is the need for a transformative shift towards
thriving. What struck me most about this conference was these leaders’ openness to
self-diagnosis and embracing external perspectives that might offer insights or nuggets
of wisdom to propel them forward.

It’s a rare and commendable trait for organizations to look inward and openly seek
improvement. This reflective practice is essential, and many organizations must pay
more attention to this introspective opportunity. The willingness to let others provide
perspective, question the status quo, and seek a new or better “next” sets good
organizations apart from great ones. The MTMGMA is evidently on its path to greatness,
evidenced by its enthusiastic reception of new ideas and its eagerness to integrate
these insights into its practices.

During my sessions, I shared various anecdotes and lessons learned from my leadership
experiences. The engagement and thoughtful responses were not just affirming, but
they also played a crucial role in the learning process. If there was a valuable nugget in
my stories, I am confident this group of motivated professionals will mine it and use it
to forge their next practice.

The courage to allow vulnerability in leadership by admitting there are areas to improve
is not just a strength, but a beacon of inspiration. MTMGMA’s approach—seeking
growth, fostering critical discussions, and adopting a theme that champions
transformation, exemplifies leadership at its best. This conference was not just a
gathering but it was a vivid demonstration of what it means to evolve from surviving to

This conference not only rocked but also vividly showcased how leadership, when
combined with humility, courage, and openness to change, can lead to exceptional
growth and improvement. The journey of leadership continues, and like the MTMGMA,
we all should aspire to thrive, not just survive.

Book me to speak at your upcoming conference, where I can share 30+ years of my
experience leading all kinds of teams—as a trauma nurse in the Air Force to emergency

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