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Grit Lasts Longer Than Giftedness

, | August 29, 2023

by Marcia Dority Baker

Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Marcia Dority Baker, Leadership Coach at MOR Associates. Marcia may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. – Elbert Hubbard

I have an idea to share that I have seen play out in different areas of life. I offer this as an option to reframe a challenging situation into an opportunity to level up. So here it is; grit lasts longer than giftedness.  

What is “grit”? Angela Duckworth, researcher and author, describes grit as the “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” This ability to maintain progress toward an outcome despite challenges or unexpected obstacles in life. The passion one has to accomplish a goal and the perseverance to do the work make “grit” a characteristic leaders should cultivate. 

Giftedness is a higher-than-usual intellectual abilities or a high IQ. Typically, giftedness is identified early in life, offering educational opportunities to explore or build that ability. While the ability to focus on one’s giftedness can lead to early career success, it can also isolate one from real-world experiences or the opportunity to learn with one’s peer group.  

When we discuss Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in MOR programs, the first competency is self awareness, the ability to recognize our response to a situation or when our triggers are pushed. The second competency is self management, the ability to control and manage our response to a situation. A person with grit is aware of what they want to accomplish and can self manage their response to obstacles. Wisdom comes from experience. As leaders, we learn as we grow throughout our careers. Growing includes the ability to work smarter, not harder, a key component in cultivating grit.

While grit is seen as a skill for high achievers, the ability to influence others is necessary for leaders to accomplish goals. The third competency in EQ is social awareness, the ability to lead change and solve problems. A leader with grit can see the finish line and motivate the team to accomplish that goal. To persevere, a person with grit will cultivate and lean on relationships. The fourth EQ competency is relationship management. Being able to manage one’s emotions, navigate the response of others, influence the group to accomplish a goal, and maintain healthy relationships is a person with beneficial emotional intelligence and a leader with grit.  

While understanding how we respond to challenges enables us to grow as leaders and cultivate grit, we need an action plan to accomplish goals. It’s great to have an idea, but creating a strategic plan to achieve that idea is what leaders do. The Desired Future State activity is foundational to all the MOR Leaders programs. This simple but powerful activity invites us to document the desired future state (where we want to be) and the current state (where we are now). The most important part of the activity is the action plan to move from the current state to the desired future state. The question, “How can we close the gap?” lets one strategize the path to success. A person with grit can work toward the desired future state despite challenges.

Energy and persistence conquer all things. – Benjamin Franklin

One of the MOR Maxims comes from the Marshall Goldsmith classic: What got you here won’t get you there. This maxim and the book acknowledge the leadership takeaway about grit. As leaders, we know that resting on one’s laurels is the quickest way to stagnate in our career or ability to lead our organizations. A growth mindset includes grit to overcome obstacles, seek out continued growth opportunities, and persevere when resources are tight and innovation is necessary for a healthy change. 

Last week, we asked if developing a set of principles would help strengthen alignment in your organization.

  • 41% said they lack alignment and think developing principles could help.
  • 28% said they’re well aligned and it might be worth developing principles to reinforce.
  • 9% said they lack alignment and don’t think this tool would help.
  • 6% said they’re well aligned and don’t think developing principles would help much.
  • 16% said they already have principles.

Wow! Last week’s article resonated, with over 2/3rds of us feeling we could benefit from focusing more on principles. We hope the suggestions in last week’s article are helpful to you in that journey. Also, for those of you with a MOR program cohort, they are another resource to lean on in this journey. Another interesting finding was that half of us feel our organizations lack alignment. Alignment is critical for organizations to function at their best. We hope you lead from where you are to find ways to strengthen that alignment. As discussed in today’s reading, this is the type of endeavor that requires grit to succeed.

Further Reading on Grit