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Lead and Grow with Fortitude

Pain, Failure, Defeat

As many of you know, I coach executives and leaders in government, business and in sports. It is a humbling and exciting to see improvement in their leadership capabilities. I am particularly proud of a High School Boys Lacrosse Club I am coaching. I see their growth as a team and as future leaders.

I offer to you, my readers and fellow leaders, three lessons the boys are learning. These lessons are appropriate for all in leadership positions. The lessons? They are learning the lessons of pain, failure, and defeat. Anyone responsible for leading any size team to any size organization should be familiar with them.


Preparation to be competitive in sports, like preparation to be a leader will be painful. I did not say could be or might be. It will be.

Preparation will include building stamina, speed, and agility. It also includes clear thinking when you are tired and being able to maintain calm and situational awareness when momentum is against you. Preparation also includes preparing the spirit. Spirit is that inner strength I like to call Fortitude. Preparing that Inner strength is a must and develops as the body and mind grow stronger; inner strength is what carries the athlete and the leader along when the body and mind want to stop.

Preparation is painful. It means running, and training hard. Developing mentally means long hours of study, and putting yourself in game situations that are more trying than you will experience on the field of play. Being strong and fast means nothing if you are not smart enough to recognize situations as they present themselves in the field of play. It means continuing when pain seems overwhelming.


Teams lose, leaders from time to time fail. It is inevitable. The great teams and leaders deconstruct failure to understand where the shortfall took place. This understanding leads to adjusting their preparation for the next game. Did I just imply more pain? I am afraid so.

Failure is nothing more than setting up the team and the leader for greater success.


Defeat only comes when the athlete and leader quit. Quitting is optional.


All of us who are accomplished leaders know that learning to lead came with pain and a lot of failures. I would argue those of us who were taught the tenant’s of leadership by the best still endured a lot of pain and failure. It will be no different for those new to leading.

My best advice, learn how to lead, engage with mentors or get a coach. Study the subject and put what you study into use. Brace yourself, pain and failure are inevitable. Being defeated is up to you.

I want to thank Dr. Neil Stroul for planting the seeds of what pain, failure, and defeat truly are into my thinking. I hope I have done the same for you.