by Jake Thompson

Why Grit is Crucial to Leadership

Despite being overlooked when discussing a list of 'most important ...
Why Grit is Crucial to Leadership

Imagine you're on a team of people like the ones you work with.

These are good people - the kind you can count on and know they're working toward the same goal as you.

You view the person you report to as the leader of the team—someone passionate about helping you and the other team members excel and reach the goal. It’s not just about the win but about each person contributing to it.

Now imagine investing months of work toward a common goal. You're making progress and confident that success is just ahead on the horizon. You can almost feel it.

Then, imagine you hit a roadblock. 

It's not a dealbreaker, but it has caused a problem big enough that the entire team is struggling to overcome.

Now imagine that in the midst of that adversity, your leader - the person you look up to - just decides to quit.

That “leader” very quickly turned into someone you refer to as a “previous coworker” that you don’t believe is worth following. You feel betrayed and hurt because when you needed them most in the storm, they jumped ship and left you holding an oar.

That’s not someone you’d want to work alongside, much less follow.

If I were to imagine great leaders, it would be the captain standing on top of the hill, yelling words of courage before running in front of his squad into battle.

It would be the mom taking on three jobs to make sure every one of her kids gets through college. 

Despite being rejected six times for dental school, it would be the student who keeps working to improve her test scores and applies to make a career out of her dream.

In other words, I want a leader who's willing to run toward adversity instead of quitting when it shows up.

I want to follow someone who's willing to take on the hard stuff and use any setback as a stepping stone for growth.

I want that - and so does everyone around you.

None of us want a leader who's going to abandon us when things get uncomfortable, because if they quit when it's inconvenient, they sure as hell won't stick around when things get tough.

That's why great leaders have grit.

They're willing to keep showing up when times are tough. 

They're willing to help their teams succeed when obstacles keep impeding them. And they're willing to set the example by how they live their life instead of what words they say.

Great leaders can be defined by a few key characteristics:

  • Strong vision
  • Empathy
  • Commitment to helping & empowering others
  • Decisiveness
  • Optimism

And the best part about this list is that none of those traits are talent-based either.

They're a set of skills carefully and intentionally cultivated through the daily small choices.

Even better? They are skills that each one of us has the opportunity to develop in our career with intentional small choices each day.

And it doesn’t matter whether you work from an office, home, or on the road.

Each of us is in a position to be a leader in our community (online/offline) and our homes this week.

We may not hold a specific title, and we may not feel like we’ve done ‘enough’ to be leaders—but make no mistake—people (coworkers, gym friends, children) are watching us. They're watching how you handle situations of stress, discomfort, and setbacks.

Will we completely give into our feelings of fear and just "check out" of any personal/professional responsibilities? 

Or will we acknowledge that it's okay to be afraid, but we don't plan to let fear keep us from doing what's necessary to put us in a better position when we get out of this storm?

Will we give up on our goals because our schedule is inconvenient or the available work isn't our "dream job?" 

Or will we do what we can to keep advancing until we're in a position to do what we want down the road?

Every choice is up to us.

Do we look at obstacles optimistically, knowing that we can get through them together? Or do we allow fear and negativity to lead us and seep into those watching us, further hurting them?

You may not be where you want to be today. 

You may not be in an ideal situation or facing some massive difficulty.

Your life may feel overwhelming.

I get it. I know that feeling, but I also know this: how you respond to today's situation is still 100% up to you.

The people watching you - coworkers, friends, kids - need you to respond as a leader.

Don't believe yourself to be a leader? 

Then, ask yourself how a leader would act and pretend you are one for this moment. Align your actions with that of a leader every single day until you start to believe you are.

You can build the grit necessary to endure this storm by focusing on just today. Not tomorrow, not next week or not next year.

Be where your feet are and take the best possible step forward.. 

Your level of grit tomorrow starts with how you choose to show up today.

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