Obstinacy and Determination: Know the Difference!


Critical to leadership is knowing the difference between determination and obstinacy. Often no more than a razor’s edge separates the two. Richard Brookhiser explains:

“A weakness is the absence of a good quality; a flaw is the presence of a bad one. Everyone has flaws, and no one is ever rid of them all. . . . “[T]here are projects, or strategies, that should not be carried through, because they are mistaken or hopeless. Obstinacy is persisting beyond all reason. . . .

“Obstinacy is the brother of determination. There is no easy way to tell them apart; in the heat of the moment, they can look and feel the same. But when the moment lengthens and lengthens, it becomes time to try some other way; the obstinate leader won’t. Recognizing when it is time to let go takes experience, wisdom, and instinct. Some leaders are slow to see it; others see it too soon.”

– Richard Brookhiser, George Washington on Leadership, pp. 213 and 217.

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