I recently worked with a leader who had strong technical skills but kept getting stuck on one specific procedure that he performed daily. He possessed all the background needed to master his challenging tasks but repeatedly became overwhelmed when he reached a certain point. He threw his hands up when we spoke:
“I just can’t figure out how to get over this hurdle. I need to learn this step but I have a block. Why can’t someone else just do it?”
As I listened to his frustrations I kept thinking about all his knowledge and abilities. They were all there. What was preventing him from being successful? What was holding him back? He lacked grit.
In her eye-opening book, “Grit”, Angela Duckworth explores how people can push themselves forward when they are having trouble reaching their goals. She explains the importance of having passion in what we pursue and then having the ability to stay focused and dig deeper to empower us towards success. Duckworth shares her definition of grit:
“Grit isn’t just working incredibly hard. There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out real hard problems, it all takes time-longer than most people imagine. Then you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people.”
Here are six ways leaders can develop grit:
1. LOOK AT YOUR CORE VALUES
To become grittier, leaders first must look inwards and identify what is important to their well-being and professional development. Here are some questions leaders can ask themselves to clarify their values:
- Do I become energized being around people or by reflecting on my inner thoughts?
- Do I prefer working in large organizations or smaller companies?
- What products or services excite me?
- Do I need to work in a more nurturing workplace or one that is more self-reliant?
- What type of organizational culture fits my personality?
2. BE CLEAR ON YOUR DIRECTION
Once leaders recognize the values that drive them, they need to seek out work situations that align. For example: if you prefer to work in a team atmosphere, make sure that you are seeking work environments that value teamwork. On the other hand, if you naturally like to work independently, choose projects or companies that encourage alone time. When we want to build our grit, we need to find professional situations that allow us to be true to our values because then we can be more authentic.
3. SHOW UP TO WORK HARD
So here is the thing about growing our grit- we need to work hard at it. What does that mean? Although we may be in a great company or job or career, we still need to be our best and strive towards excellence. That could mean spending more time on a skill we aren’t as strong or developing our strengths to a higher level.
4. DELVE DEEP TO EXPLORE ALL OPTIONS
Part of being gritty, is also letting no stone go unturned. That means making sure we lead with detail and understanding. We need to ask tons of questions, perform an abundance of research and try not to jump to any premature conclusions. A leader with grit is open to honest feedback and guidance.
5. PRACTICE UNTIL MASTERY
Angela Duckworth talks a great deal about the need for people to keep practicing their skills until they are at their best. Just think of great athletes or brilliant inventors, their innate talent got them only so far but their continuous practice led them to greatness.
6. SHARE THE WEALTH
When leaders know who they are, where they are going and have worked hard to master their craft, it is important to share their accomplishments.
- Become a mentor to someone on your team
- Teach a course to share what you have discovered
- Be on a panel and part of an on-going discussion in your field
How can you become a grittier leader?
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