Last week I wrote about Professor Duckworth’s research on grit and its importance to success (True Grit: What does it take to be Successful). Grit, in her definition, has two components. One is an almost single-minded focus on achieving your objectives. It is not done with simply a desire to getting things done but, rather, a true desire and passion to make things happen (compelling passion). It is also a willingness to get up, brush one’s self off and keep going even after apparent failure. What I wish to do in this blog is to ask you to think about leaders who have demonstrated a compelling passion to make things happen and one who was willing to recover from apparent failure.
The first person who demonstrates the grit that Professor Duckworth talks about is Winston Churchill. Though Mr. Churchill is best known as the Prime Minister, who steadfastly led Britain through the horrible bombings and threat of invasion in World War II, he had a somewhat checkered history before that. No doubt about it, he started his life off right by being born into an aristocratic British family, but he had a poor academic record, and it took him three attempts to pass the entrance exam to the Royal Military College not a successful start for a future wartime leader! More importantly, he made some mistakes in both his military and political careers, including the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in World War I. He was out of touch with the political inside until the start of World War II. But at that time, he became Prime Minister and successfully led Britain through the challenges of the war. Upon his death, Queen Elizabeth II granted him a state funeral—not something that often happens in England.
The second person is Jerry Loughran from Garden City, NY. You probably have never heard of Jerry. However, he became a ball boy at the US Open in 2009 at the age of 61. He passed all the physical tests (yes, you have to pass tests for running, throwing and catching). Mr. Loughran was a marathoner and a cyclist and being a ball boy at the US Open was on his bucket list. I think it took some grit to decide to do this and to be willing to hang out with the teenage ball boys! I know from personal experience when I work to keep up with my children on a hike.
My central point is there are many ways to demonstrate grit. It can be at the national level, or it can be more local. It doesn’t have to be “big” but can be much less grand. True grit can happen in many ways. Think about it. How do you, your colleagues, and your company demonstrate true grit? How often do you see true grit in your daily lives?