The Importance of Grit

“As much as talent counts, effort counts twice. Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals—and it is what turns talent into skill, and skill into achievement.” – Angela Duckworth

One of the members of my leadership team recently shared with me an article/blog post from Daniel Pink (www.danielpink.com) on the importance of grit in driving individual and team performance. The article included excerpts from an interview with Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who recently published a book on her findings and observations on the topic of grit [Book is entitled “Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance”].

At any rate, it got me thinking – what is grit, and how can we as leaders leverage this to drive superior performance? Is it something that’s inherent in a person’s character, or can it be learned/developed?

Simply put, grit is a measure of an individual or team’s determination to a cause. It’s a mentality fueled by a relentless persistence to succeed. It reflects the tenacity and perseverance individuals will endure to see things through.

Many of us inherently have this quality within us. It’s part of the human condition. We are genetically built with that determination. But what’s interesting is how and where grit shows up in our lives, and more importantly, what tends to motivate gritty behavior. Most often that motivation is an individual’s underlying passion for the cause.

Let me explain. If you have a passion for dance (like my daughter) you’ll endure 6:30 am practice on a daily basis so that your performance improves. If you love golf you’ll spend countless hours at the driving range or chipping green to perfect your game (perhaps that’s why I’m so bad at it). If you have a passion for selling you will endure dozens of “No’s” just to get that one “Yes”. That drive to be successful shows up as “gritty” behavior.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a passion for an activity you will likely go through the motions but apply the minimal amount of effort to get the job done. You will lack the tenacity and determination to see things through. You effort will be focused on completing the job, not succeeding in the job. You will lack grit.

What’s interesting is how grit ultimately translates in to an individual’s performance. It’s more than just the focus and intensity you put in to an effort, but it’s the long term cumulative benefits that matter. As Angela Duckworth’s quote references – “Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals—and it is what turns talent into skill, and skill into achievement”. It cannot be overstated how strong the correlation is between grit and achievement.

So it is no surprise that those of us who approach our work with a high degree of passion and intensity tend to have more grit, and in the long run, tend to be successful.

Now let’s translate this in to leadership, because having one or two gritty individuals on the team won’t produce the results you likely want for the collective group. It will take the entire team working together, with passion and intensity. That will drive grit and determination, and ultimately result in success.

I have long been a proponent of “Culture” as most important focus a leader can have. That is not so say that there aren’t other important activities a leader must drive – setting the right strategy/goals, hiring the right talent, setting the right example – all of these are important. But in the end culture eats strategy for lunch, no amount of talent can overcome a poor culture, and working hard by yourself means nothing if the team isn’t following your lead.

Culture defines an organizations passion, and in doing so determines its underlying grit. It sets the bar for what’s important and what really matters. It defines why an organization exists, and how it is expected to behave. It gives it purpose, and determines how its members will be rewarded for their effort.

Which brings me back to the first part of my original question – what is grit, and how can we as leaders promote it to drive superior performance? The answer for me is clear. Culture set purpose, builds passion, creates gritty behavior, and in the end determines success.

What’s your grit level? And are you helping build a culture where grit permeates the organization and drives success?

NOTE: If you are interested Angela Duckworth has created a quick survey that will measure your level of grit. Here is the link: Grit Scale

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Grit

  1. So true in our personal and professional lives…”true grit” is a leading indicator for sucess. Angela’s TED Talk is amazing too!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Celebrate Baby Steps: In Search of Motivation - Opening to the Possibility

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