Strategic Fortitude


Yes, I made that term up several years ago, actually for a presentation I was giving at a national conference. I continue to use it because I think it creates an image in people’s mind of what it really takes to succeed in the volatile environments that so many of us face today. The term also seems to prompt people to stand up a little straighter as if to say, “I can do that!”

Webster defines fortitude as “Strength of mind that allows one to endure adversity with courage.” Building on that, my definition of strategic fortitude is “A clearly defined target or passion that allows one to endure adversity with courage.” Strategic fortitude helps you cut through the clutter and noise we all face every day, to identify the right path for your organization based on your goals and non-negotiables. It makes it easier to keep your focus on the right things for your organization, which impacts your decision-making and prevents mission drift. It allows you to made offensive decisions rather than defensive ones, which move you toward your mission much more quickly.

There will be many well-meaning people who will offer you advice along the way. But if they don’t understand your goals, (which are likely different from theirs) they may be leading you down a rabbit trail that will only distract you from your actual target. One of the tricks to this is that strategic fortitude only works when you have clarity and specificity in terms of where you want to go. If your goal is broadly stated, such as “we’re going to help kids”, there are so many ways to reach that goal that your attention will likely be pulled in multiple directions, which only dilutes your ultimate impact. When you focus your passion . . . we will be the Mayo Clinic of trauma and attachment . . . then decision-making becomes easier. So when someone says you should start a school for children with autism because the need is great and funding is available, you can acknowledge the need and also recognize it is not the direction your organization is headed and so you don’t expend energy pursuing the possibility, even though you could probably do it well, because it’s not your mission.

Will people think you’re being short-sighted or narrow-minded? Probably. Will people look at you and shake their head, as if you just don’t know what you’re doing? Quite likely. There is a natural tendency to push back against people who are doing things differently, I supposed because it might call into question the status quo. But seriously, who aspires to reach the status quo?!?

Change is hard, pushback is a given (sorry, no sugar-coating here), but if the end goal is worth it, then you press on. In a strange sort of way, there is a peace and a confidence that comes with a clearly defined target or passion that allows you to endure adversity with courage. And when you get to that place, my friends, you have found strategic fortitude.