October 2017

Leading Is Not For the Weak

'There is no doubt that great leaders require fortitude'

by Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq.
Black Enterprise Magazine

Leadership is about integrity of service and the ability to influence others with a compelling vision that incites action. Col. John Boggs, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) knows this all too well and has built an extraordinary living legacy on this premise. He is an author, speaker, and leadership and strategy development expert. An infantry officer with over 30 years of service to the nation, Boggs is one of the rare few to command at every rank.

Among his many accolades, he has served as chief of staff of the National Defense University in Washington D.C.—the world's leading institute for producing strategic leaders—and served as a fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations. As a businessman and CEO of Fortitude Consulting, Boggs provides leadership development for individuals and organizations that are diverse in size and complexity.

Black Enterprise caught up with the colonel to talk all things leadership and fortitude.

How would you characterize the connection between leadership and fortitude?

Great leadership requires fortitude! Fortitude is the inner strength one displays in the face of pain or adversity. It is having true courage. A leader—a great leader—must be able to face the pain of criticism and do what is right because it is right.

There is an overwhelming example of leaders without fortitude today. When being challenged by adversity they often default to the "wisdom" of the crowd, the loudest voices, or decide to put themselves first. Great leaders need fortitude to face not just physical danger, but also to grapple with stinging criticism and do what is right. Without question, leading is not for the weak.

The Marine Corps cemented in me the idea of servant leadership and mission accomplishment.

Rule one for a leader is to accomplish the mission; in civil society and in business that means producing the expected results. Leaders do not accomplish the mission or produce results on their own. Leaders accomplish them through the people they lead.

You learn quickly in the Marine Corps to take care of your Marines. You keep them well-informed and care for their welfare. You are their exemplar worthy of emulation. You take care of their needs before you take care of your own. You do the hard things first. Marines don't follow you in dangerous places to do dangerous things because you said so. It is because they believe in you and trust you. It is no different in business. The best leaders, those that always exceed their goals, tend to be great servant leaders.

In your opinion, can fortitude be developed over time? If so, how?

What a great question! There is no such thing as a born leader. We all have to learn. Fortitude speaks to a person's inner character, their willingness to do what is right in the face of adversity. When one learns how to lead, that inner courage can grow. So, yes, fortitude can be developed.

The danger is to believe you suddenly know how to lead because you were promoted. There is no "leadership fairy dust." One may have been successful at the director level and a complete failure at the vice president level. The leadership responsibilities are different as a person continues up the leadership ladder. In my experience, I find this situation most common in the C-suite.

Can you share a time in your life when your credibility as a leader was challenged?

I worked with a client, a senior executive, who challenged me quite often. The client was caustic to peers and employees in general. He felt that he was in charge and therefore everyone had to do what he said. He did not buy into the idea of being an exemplar much less being a servant leader.

Over time, he came around. He wanted to be successful. Just making margins was a struggle. Once he caught on to the impact of leading with fortitude and the importance of being an exemplar, he began to realize dramatic success.

What is your best advice to an aspiring leader, regardless of industry?

Leading requires fortitude. Leading is not for wimps. It requires being a servant and a good example for others to follow. Anyone can learn to lead. When you are presented with a leadership opportunity, do not take it lightly. Get a coach, and get a mentor to assure that you can maximize your potential to do well.

Himicane Harvey—The On Going Assault on Women

The himicane season has been impacting women for more years than anyone can count. The himicane named Harvey Weinstein is not a new occurrence. Harvey may not be the worst storm to hit. He is only the most notable at the moment.

Although this section of the newsletter is for women, I hope men are reading and heeding. The Himicane Season is never-ending. It is taking a costly toll on the well-being and self-worth of women; women you know.

I learned as a Marine, it is poor form to bring up a problem without suggested solutions. Here is what I recommend.

Women, report the fouls. Some of you are worried about retribution, I understand. Report it to everyone in the leadership chain. Document, document, document sadly, without documentation it is too easy for others to say it didn't happen.

Men, DO NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY! Jokes that are seemingly harmless may be and often time is, a precursor to an action from an abuser. Nothing like looking for support for ill-mannered and illegal activity via a harmless joke, take off-color jokes as a loud declaration of who that person is, and when someone is telling you who they are by their words and actions—believe it!

Being a leader, regardless of whether you are a woman or a man, is not for wimps. Stand-up take action and do what is right.


I am often asked for leadership advice based on my Marine Corps experience for use in business. This section is providing short leadership tips you can use in becoming an Exceptional Leader. Being good on any given day is easy. Being exceptional requires daily effort. Enjoy the read.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard a few executives express feelings of fear, afraid they are not taking enough action, afraid they are taking too much action, afraid of speaking up on sensitive topics. The list of fears is almost endless.

We are all born with fear—fear of falling, fear of sudden loud noises, and fear of great heights. We grow out each of those fears. All the other fears we have we learned. Some of the lessons were passed down from friends and family and others we learned on our own. What an accomplishment.

Having some fear is healthy. Fear of staying in a burning building; fear of person pointing a gun at you; yes, having some fear is healthy. This article would be too long to go deeply into the subject of fear. The short answer to fear is simple; so simple most I find won't take this action—become familiar with the thing, environment, person or people that causes the fear inside you.

It is a simple and effective approach to resolving fear. I hope you are not afraid to take that simple action. As I have written throughout this month's newsletter—leading is not for wimps.

Current Happenings

My new book "Developing Business Leadership Skills—The Practical Guide to Effectively Being In-Charge" is available on Amazon, Kindle, and iBooks. Check it out and leave a review!

My book "Leading With Fortitude: The Essentials" is still free, go to my website to download it.


The "21st Century Community Policing and Cultural Competency Online Course" opens for enrolment on 31 October.

Although the course is intended for Law Enforcement Professionals, anyone in a leadership position will benefit from the course. Particularly the third module "Cultural Competency." That module goes into the significance of cultures and how to effectively work across culture, race and gender.

The feedback has been superb. We have had over a hundred comments and over 95% of the comments have indicated the course is "spot-on" and "timely."


The Fortitude Online Leadership Academy will open with its first courses.

Over the past year I have been made painfully aware of the vast number of midlevel and junior executives that do not have access to leadership coaching or development.

For some there is no in-house leadership program and for others one on one coaching and leadership development is cost prohibitive.

The Fortitude Leadership Academy will cover topics of interest to the neophyte leader and to the seasoned senior executive. The courses will be in small bite size lectures and at an investment price point that is affordable.

Everyone should have access to a quality leadership education.


Fortitude Consulting, teaming with BAF Security Solutions will be standing up a Law Enforcement Leadership Academy. Stay tuned.

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