True Grit Makes a Great Leader

Are you a boss with true grit? What does that mean? And how do you get it right?

According to Wikipedia,

Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait, based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realization. Commonly associated concepts within the field of psychology include “perseverance,” “hardiness,”resilience,” “ambition,” and “need for achievement.”

“Gritty bosses are driven by the nagging conviction that everything they and their people do could be better if they tried just a little harder or were just a bit more creative,” writes Robert Sutton in Good Boss, Bad Boss.

Such bosses instill grit in subordinates. Without creating the impression that everything is an emergency, great bosses have a sense of urgency. They are dogged and patient, sensing when to press forward and when to be flexible.

As Albert Einstein once stated: “It’s not that I am so smart; it is just that I stay with my problems longer.”

University of Pennsylvania Assistant Professor of Psychology Angela Duckworth, PhD, and her colleagues define grit as perseverance and passion toward long-term goals.

“Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress,” she wrote in a 2007 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology paper.

Without becoming discouraging, bosses with grit believe that progress isn’t always good enough—that you can never stop learning or rest on your laurels.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you want to develop the mindset of true grit:

  1. Do you treat work as a marathon or a sprint?
  2. Do you look for quick fixes?
  3. Do you instill a sense of urgency without treating everything as a crisis?
  4. In the face of failures, do you persist or give up?

(True Grit was a 1969 movie in which John Wayne garnered his only Academy Award. It was redone in 2010, with a script by the Coen Brothers, more true to the novel by Charles Portis by the same name, and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.)

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