What does fortitude look like?
He had failed repeatedly.
On June 19, 2002, the Chicago millionaire Steve Fossett began another attempt to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon, a craft he called SoloSpirit.
Fossett, who already held records in ballooning, sailing, and motorized flight, had this one personal goal to achieve. The five previous attempts to circle the earth in a hot-air balloon had failed, the latest attempt ending in a torrent of thunderstorms in Brazil.
Steve Fossett is a determined man, however. He sees the goal and presses forward to achieve it. Even though his fifth journey had set many ballooning records, the central goal of completely circling the globe wasn’t reached. Steve had to try again; he is a man of endurance.
On July 4, 2002, after fourteen days, nineteen hours, and fifty-one minutes, Steve Fossett realized his dream: He landed smoothly near Lake Yamma Yamma in the east Australian outback. On his trip around the world, he had traveled almost 21,000 miles.
His persistence and uncompromising perseverance had kept him focused—no matter what the odds, the obstacles, or what others believed and said. That is what fortitude looks like.
The pillars of leadership
As I have noted before, endurance—along with humility—is one of the two foundational pillars of effective leadership. Truly great leaders are humble men and women who in the face of extreme stress, trial, failure, and chaos hold on, move forward, and endure. They have grit—fortitude.
By starting with humility, you can be sure that you’re ready for endurance. Holding on until you reach the right target is only accomplished by applying the previous seven principles.
Endurance takes courage—guts. It takes the ability to persevere and stand strong when the tide of public opinion and employee wishes are against whatever you as leader believe must happen. It is a quality that instills confidence in followers and pushes organizations to realize their goals.
I have a friend who is a triathlete. He tells me that anyone can compete in the event. Anyone can buy the necessary outfits, cheer when the gun sounds, and begin the race. However, only those who are in shape will finish or even compete for very long. After a few miles of the first event, participants are grateful that they took the time to build up their endurance. They are glad they held strong to the rigors of their training schedules.
What distinguishes triathletes is the ability to finish strong; they have prepared well. The demonstrate fortitude. Likewise, leaders who want to become great leaders need to develop the ability to endure and hold strong in the face of adversity and discouragement. As they live through hardship and work through pain and setback, they may stumble. But like a good runner, they never lose stride. They consistently stand up to the heat of battle. They finish what needs to be finished, and they stand firm on their values and vision.