Grit is not a word we hear everyday in these current times. But recently, it became a word that I have had to really meditate on. I was in the Global Leadership Summit for this year and the topic “The Intangibles of Leadership” was taken by Bill Hydels and the first intangible he mentioned was “grit”.
Grit is passion and perseverance for what one is doing. It is steely determination demonstrated over a long time. In psychology, it is defined as a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their objective.
Grit is different from normal ability. Individuals who have grit exhibit ability and zeal and persistence of motive and effort. One would ordinarily think that intelligence would strongly correlate with grit, knowing fully well that the former has always been one of the best predictors of future achievement in scholastic field and in job performance. However, research has shown that grit and intelligence are not correlated, grit is not tied to intelligence. This has helped to explain why some very intelligent individuals do not consistently perform well over long periods. Examples of individuals with grit are Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela, amongst many others.
The question then is, how do we develop grit?
According to Bill, the enemy of grit is ‘ease’. To develop grit, learn to release yourself to do difficult tasks. As the saying goes ‘bring it on’ , or ‘bite more than you can chew’. At the end of day, something will have to give. Difficult tasks will task your brain, strength and ability; they will be over stretched but they will not break. It has been found out that as humans, even in our best, we make use of just a very minimal part of our brain. In other words, the capacity of our brain is so great that despite all our human efforts, it is still being under utilized.
Secondly, try taking on physical challenges that will stretch your nerves and muscles. Those who do strenuous sports and exercises like mountain climbing, running marathon races and the like are categorised as having grit. These kinds of sports are seen as tasking, and they tend to develop tenacity, persistence and sheer strength in people. The way it applies to us is that as leaders there should be certain physical sports or exercise that we do very religiously. The former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is said to rise up at 5am everyday to jog for one hour. (I like her as an example because she is a woman). The essence is so that we learn to stretch ourselves to our very extreme limit.
One other way to develop grit is to read the biographies of people who have done excellently well. You really do not have to go far to get the stories of the great people of our time. They are very available on the Internet, and many of them have been produced as films. The reality is that such stories are not only interesting; they are educative, instructive and inspiring. It is not possible to seriously read the story of a great man or woman and not have some important fact to hold on to, which will be a guide for one’s path.
Lastly, people must learn to over-deliver on any project or work or assignment. Meeting the benchmark or target will not qualify as grit. We must get to the level whereby we aim to surpass everybody’s expectation, including ours. It is a combination of excellence and perfection. This is evident in the story of “Apple”. One would think their last product will be the end of it, or even that some time will elapse before a new one comes up, but what you get is constant upgrade which surpasses expectation in one way or the other.
In conclusion, you develop grit when you take on challenges that everyone thinks are out rightly impossible. The Wright brothers who created aircrafts must have been referred to as “crazy” at some time. But the present has shown that they were the wisest perhaps. And what if it fails? That too is part of grit developing strategy. Failure is just a terminology; you have not failed, but only learnt another way of not doing a thing.
Why do need to have grit as a leader. It is because you cannot afford to give up. There are so many lives depending on and looking up to you; maybe as an inspiration or support or mentor. Your life or action will either make or mar them. So develop grit.
Image by Sinclair Broadcast.