If given the opportunity I’ll ask that speaker to expand on those words. That phrase is deep in meaning but it’s not obviously clear to me. Perhaps it’s that leaders generally forge a path for their followers and that path is limited by our ability to tussle through the rough brambles life offers. Or perhaps it’s that we need to bear pain on behalf of our followers.
In doing some googling, I found this great quote on leadership and pain:
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality; The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor . . . A friend of mine characterized leaders simply like this: 'Leaders don't inflict pain; they bear pain. -- Max De Pree