Their names were Mittie and Alice, and they were two women who were very important to him. One was his mother and the other was his wife.
Alice, his wife, had just given birth to their daughter. There was so much joy in the house. It was a busy time. In addition to the new baby, he had been busily working to get some reform bills through the New York legislature, which was no small venture.
Sadly, it is at this point that things start to turn.
First, his mother dies from typhoid fever. Then, on the same day his wife dies from kidney complications brought on by childbirth.
His new daughter was only four days old when Teddy Roosevelt’s mother and wife both die within hours of one another. To cope, Roosevelt demanded that his wife’s name was never to be spoken in his presence–hearing it was simply too painful of a reminder for him. To help, Roosevelt’s sister, Bamie, took the baby and raised her as her own.
Roosevelt believed he could outrun grief. He adopted a hectic lifestyle where he was constantly on the go and pushing himself to the limit. He headed west, where he took up ranching, reading books, and writing, as well as a stint as a part of local law enforcement, among other exciting things.
Eventually, he returned to the East Coast, where he reentered politics and eventually became President of the United States.
As you can see, Roosevelt’s tragedy and pain did not stop him from moving forward. I’m not saying his methods for dealing with grief were the healthiest of paths; however, he did find a coping mechanism. That mechanism allowed him to keep moving forward.
Roosevelt’s story is powerful and encouraging for this reason: we all have stuff.
As a leader, you may one day face a quality control issue and have to stop production for a time. Such issues require enormous focus, time, and energy; they also create strains at work and at home. During these times, you’re trying to encourage your team to keep the faith and not get bogged down in the current problem.
You want them to look ahead to the time when the issue is fixed. Yet, you’re still trying to navigate cash flow, leadership coaching, and questions from the board.
In times of great difficulty, you can’t become frozen. Your team must see you taking action. If the organization sees you standing still…should you become quiet…a wave of fear and doubt will sweep through it.
Preach the mission. Remind the team as to why they do what they do. Cast the vision. Stoke the fire and reiterate where the organization is going and what it hopes to accomplish.
Perspective is helpful. If Roosevelt could keep going in the face of his storms, then you can soldier through your difficulties. Let his example be an encouragement to you. Be like Roosevelt and you could quite possibly come out of your valley stronger than you were before with a future full of hope and promise.
Remember, everybody’s got stuff. To fulfill your mission and vision you must endure. Giving up is not an option for any leader. Be like Roosevelt and never throw in the towel.
Brian Sanders serves as Executive Vice President of Positive Alternative Radio. He regularly writes and speaks on leadership topics. His new book, “Leadership Endurance,” can be purchased HERE.