Knowing When to Admit Defeat

By | September 28, 2023

[September 28, 2023]  Surprisingly, one of the secrets to being a successful is sometimes being willing to admit defeat … if the time and conditions are right.  The best leaders know there are circumstances when being right is not the most practicable strategy.

How can it be, one may ask, that leaders intentionally give up when they are correct in what they do or plan to do?  First, we must remember that the leader’s goal is to ensure the organizational mission is achieved and its people are properly cared for.  Second, while organizational leaders are a vital part of the process to ensure the mission is achieved, leaders are not the mission.  This is a very misunderstood part of leadership.

Being right means many things, including being time-efficient, cost-effective, and best overall for the company.  This includes doing those things that are legal, moral, and ethical.  The leader who does the right thing is doing so by being efficient, effective, and best for the company.

However, I propose that the most successful leaders understand the difference between right and successful.  They know when to admit when another less efficient or practical method of achieving organizational goals is acceptable.  Yet still doing what is legal, moral, and ethical.

It is difficult for many leaders to allow other costly and time-consuming methods to progress over better techniques.  So why would leaders allow such a thing to happen?  There are several reasons why it would be best for a leader to step out of the way and allow other methods to move forward:

  • It allows other leaders to grow by making mistakes or doing things inefficiently.
  • Some techniques, tactics, and procedures are best tested, and failure experienced so others can see what not to do.
  • Customers may gain more despite the company’s temporary loss of resources. This is particularly true when customer loyalty is improved.

Regardless of the short-term disruption in the organization or loss of resources, a good leader knows when to admit that their way is not always the best in the long-term and can willingly admit defeat of their ways and plans.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).


[Note]  Mike Myatt wrote an article called “The Most Misunderstood Aspect of Great Leadership.” He wrote that he believes leaders gain the most personal, professional, and enterprise growth when they practice the leadership of surrender.  He does not mean this as giving up but in the sense that there is more to leadership than the leader.  A link to his article is here, and I recommend it.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

15 thoughts on “Knowing When to Admit Defeat

  1. Army Vet

    .. or you will lose the war. Some battles will be lost, that is the world in which we live. Learn those that can be lost, and put your efforts into those that must be won. That is how you win the war.

  2. Greg Heyman

    Excellent. If you don’t know when to admit defeat, you will suffer unnecessarily.

  3. Gibbbie

    We all have differences of opinions and we are told to “respect” others opinions but that is misleading. This is one of the subsets of what Gen. Satterfield is writing about today. It would be great for him to write MORE on this topic.

    1. Ron C.

      Yep, I agree, Gibbie. We all also need to be regularly reviewing our priorities and values to make sure we are on track for a good life.

  4. Jeremy M. Jones

    Gen. Satterfield gives us another article to put inside our brain and think about. On the surface, this is an easy article that makes a lot of sense but if you think about it, this knowing when to admit defeat is serious and needs some deep thought. Prioritize your life, know your major life’s goals, and know those tasks that are required to get there. Everything else can be sacrificed along the way. Thanks Gen. S. for your patience with us.

  5. Fred Weber

    Hi everyone, just a quick note, as I am dashing off to work (hump day was yesterday .. good). I wanted to say that this article is much more important than it might seem. A variation on it is “Pick your battles.” Now that is a great addition because if you pick your battles correctly and learn to prioritize them right, then you know when to never give up or give in and when to let the battle go because it is not as important. Brain is the solution. Not willy nilly. Too many liberals I know cannot understand this idea and, of course, they are mentally disturbed any way so I don’t argue with them.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Yeah Fred, arguing with liberals, esp. radical leftists, is like wrestling with a pig. You get dirty and they like it. Stay far away from them and never ever try to convince them of anything. The reason is that logic does NOT work. They are on an emotiional trip.

      1. Eye Cat

        ………. and also get a copy of Gen. Satterfield’s two books. Both are wonderful, straightforward reads that should enlighten and educate and entertain you on every page. Get these books and be a better person. I have never read a better book, that is easy to read than “55 Rules for a Good Life” and can use it as a bible (small b) for how to live a good life. Get your copies now and hand them out to your family.

    1. Emily Baker

      That is the point, but WHEN to give up to survive and fight another day is the question that Gen. Satterfield is attempting to answer.


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