Is This The Greatest Leadership Challenge Of Our Time?

My wife recently shared with me Angela Lee Duckworth’s theory on grit as it relates to students.  Having been aware of Angela’s popular work on ‘grit’, I had never actually seen the talk.

After seeing the video, I’m not only convinced that grit is a big idea, but believe it may be the single greatest leadership challenge of our time.

If you have not had a chance to listen to Angela Lee Duckworth’s six minute TED talk on the topic of ‘grit’ in school-aged children, you can watch it right here.  If you’re reading today in your inbox as one of our many subscribers, be sure to click here for the uninterrupted video feed.

Grit In The Home and At School

Well ahead of her time in this 2013 talk, Duckworth defines the word ‘grit’ as having passion and perseverance towards long-term goals, and through her studies cites it as the number one predictor of success – trumping both IQ and talent.

I will admit – Duckworth’s talk on ‘grit’ was stirring for me on a number of levels.  As I listened to her speak, I kept wondering and hoping that she might unveil some breakthrough pill that could make people (children) grittier.  Unfortunately, the unveiling never came.

As a parent, my mind raced with questions.  If gritty is the difference maker – how can we raise grittier kids?  Specifically, what can we do to instill ‘grit’?   What if our children don’t have it?

Grit In The Workplace

As a person working closely with business leaders day in and day out, my mind scanned all the ways that grit, or a lack of grit, impacts results in the workplace.  As an innovator, Duckworth’s talk stretched my mind in every direction trying to come up with the ultimate ‘solution’.

Is it possible to hire for ‘grit’?  How do you coach and lead people to be tenacious and demonstrate stick-to-it-ness through the ups and downs towards a long-term goal?


So, what’s the roadmap look like to building grittier employees, especially with the millennial generation?

Now the largest generation in the workforce, close to 60% of millennials expect to leave their jobs in less than 3 years.  That hardly seems like enough time to make progress toward any worthwhile goal or long enough to demonstrate any real grit.

As a millennial himself, Scott Savage authored a brilliant piece last year, “Entitlement is Stealing our Future”.  Savage writes, “when we feel entitled, we easily default to passivity and laziness, expecting things to come our way without hard work and perseverance.” Entitlement is kryptonite to grit.

With all my unanswered questions, Duckworth did answer my biggest question.  Are some people just born more gritty than others, or can a person develop grittiness over time? Grit can be developed. Studies point to Carol Dweck’s work on the growth mindset and the basic belief that abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication.

So, whether at home, school, the office or sports field, perhaps we’ve met the greatest leadership challenge of our time.

I think what I love most about Duckworth’s talk is where she ends it.

She shares what she believes to be the starting point to building more ‘grit’ in future generations – you and I.

It’s worth wrestling over.

With every ounce of grit that you’ve got.

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Founder Todd Garreston

With over 15 years of experience leading market share growth initiatives of top consumer brands in Fortune 500 and privately-held business environments, Todd Garretson advises and helps organizations identify new growth potential, craft strategy that moves people to action and enhance overall performance.

Having a passion for helping people and organizations to unlock dormant growth potential, Todd writes and speaks for audiences in three core areas: business growth strategy, leadership and personal / professional growth.

Residing in Atlanta, GA with his wife, Lauri, and their four children, weekends and free time are spent with family, coaching youth sports, and sharing his passion for fitness and nutrition.