Written by: Emily Wagner
The silent resolve. The ability to endure setbacks and accomplish a long-term goal, with a bigger picture in mind. It is often a very quiet characteristic that is sometimes not even realized until you are years ahead looking back. In psychology, grit is termed as both a positive and non-cognitive trait in humans, as a “set of skills which falls outside the traditional definitions of intelligence,” discussed here by Dr. Brian Davidson. In other words, grit is an ability that cannot be taught, but rather the capacity to keep fighting long after you feel defeated.
But, does having grit trump talent or intelligence? According to National Geographic it does. As discussed in this article, Research Psychologist Angela Duckworth has made a mission out of teaching her students the importance of how grit and self-control hold more value in life than talent and IQ. In her teachings, she has even begun to formulate measurements of grit and hard work in life and predicting the outcomes. “It’s so simple,” she says, “that it’s hard to explain.”
Regina Hartley’s famous TED Talk, Why the Best Hire Might Not Have the Perfect Resume, adds to the thoughts above when she discusses how the “scrapper” may very well be the better hire when compared with Ivy League candidates with perfect resumes. Regina describes the correlation between success and personal hardships, leading to employees with more grit and abilities to transform in “post-traumatic growth” scenarios. Studying highly successful leaders and entrepreneurs, she debates why individuals who have been faced with life difficulties and because of this adversity, they turn these experiences into the “muscle and grit required to become successful” make the better hires. When faced with the decision, she advises, “Choose the underestimated contender, whose secret weapons are passion and purpose," she says. "Hire the Scrapper."
Beyond Angela and Regina’s stories, there are so many more examples and theories to lend strength to the argument. But why is it that in mainstream business today, grit appears to be so underrated in leadership discussions? You see articles hailing leaders ability to coach teams and inspire success, to raise revenue and develop strategy, but rarely do you hear, “what a great boss, so much grit”. While in reality, having “grit” is at the core of almost every distinct characteristic making a modern and successful leader.
So, in an ode to the gritty and persistent workers out there (or those hoping to be), here are 4 qualities that help make great leaders and why grit is the foundation for each of them.
Grit and loyalty go hand in hand, they represent an honor of commitments, whether to another person, an objective, or just a tangible/intangible goal. Being a loyal employee and leader is a place where quitting is not an option and where the individual sees no other alternative to success than sticking it out and standing by what or who they have aligned themselves and their goals with.
Grit breeds resilience naturally, especially when no one else can see or believe in your vision at first. The ability to push on without the ability visualize the end result and feel okay with the idea that you might, and at some point probably will, fall on your face and ultimately get up, dust yourself off and keep trying.
Sound Decision Making Abilities
Most often individuals who have the mental ability to truly persevere tough, sometime very drawn out obstacles on their way to a long-term goal are very sound of mind and decision making. They don’t flee when things get tough and the urge is strong or even overwhelming, rather they are able to view an “ebb” in work life as situational and not a permanent state, keeping emotions in check.
Making Tough Calls
Every leader, good or bad, will have to make tough, often unpopular calls at some point in their career. And in time, these types of looming challenges that sometimes appear to be constant battles can make people run and seek an easy way out. By having grit, you have a better ability to bear down and not let the difficult tasks steal your energy and passion for the results.
With all of that said, it is important to note that there is still a difference between having grit to persist and holding onto something too long. Ignoring your internal dialogue and gut feelings telling you it is time to move on can be equally as detrimental as not having the grit to weather career or job lulls. You must learn to recognize where the line is drawn between walking away and staying just to prove your loyalty after all other reasons are gone. And that line may be a very fine line and not obvious for a novice.
You must know yourself well and recognize how you react to situations to determine where that line is because at the end of the day having grit is more than simply resolving to be a hard worker, but the foundation of how you will work and what you put energy into for a long, enduring career.