What Does Leading With Grit Really Mean?
Embrace discomfort and lead with true grit to fuel growth, resilience, and cohesive teams.
WRITTEN BY: ADAM DANYAL
Leaders love to talk about grit. They praise its virtues and the steely determination of those who possess it. But leading with true grit involves more than perseverance and stamina in the face of challenges. It requires leaders to get comfortable with discomfort.
We all want comfort. As humans, we naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain. But real growth happens outside our comfort zones. Pushing beyond what’s easy forces us to build new skills. Like an athlete training at high altitudes, leaders who lead from discomfort develop a unique capacity to thrive under pressure.
Discomfort takes many forms for leaders: tensions from unpopular decisions, delivering difficult messages, having hard conversations, addressing underperformance, and providing critical feedback. Leaning into discomfort builds critical leadership muscles. As martial arts master Bruce Lee said, “Don’t pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
Enduring difficulty productively requires self-control. Losing your cool helps no one. As conflicts arise, take a deep breath and get curious before reacting. Listen deeply and aim to understand. Oftentimes, the story behind the story offers insights to defuse tensions. Probe with care to uncover the real issues at play.
Thriving in discomfort also demands inner resilience. Bouncing back from disappointments and mistakes is essential. Don’t let setbacks sink you into regret or self-pity. Reframe them as opportunities to grow. Ask yourself what this experience is trying to teach you. Let go of what you can’t control and focus your energy on what you can change going forward.
Finally, hardship can forge strong teams when weathered together. Rally people around shared challenges, not individual blame. Confront adversity with solidarity and compassion. Provide space for people to vent frustrations, then unite around solutions. Teams that bond through turmoil build hardened loyalty.
Leading with grit ensures you’ll face trials. But those trials can unlock reserves of strength and wisdom. Use discomfort to challenge assumptions, build empathy, and draw people together. With the right mindset, difficult times can be transformational. That’s the truth at the heart of leading with grit.
From our Leadership Bookshelf:
WRITTEN BY: JULIA DANYAL
“Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin provides valuable insights on leading with grit. This leadership book outlines key lessons from the authors' experience as US Navy SEAL officers.
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Extreme Ownership examines how leaders can take complete responsibility for everything that happens under their command. The main takeaways include:
Taking ownership instead of blaming others. When problems occur, look at yourself first instead of blaming external factors.
The leader sets the tone. You must model the mindset and behavior you expect from your team. Lead by example.
Check your ego. Be humble and avoid arrogance that inhibits learning and adapting. Ego clouds judgment.
Relentlessly seek improvement. Ask for feedback from your team and conduct after-action reviews to correct deficiencies. Strive to be better every day.
Extreme Ownership offers a gritty mindset focused on self-discipline, resilience, and constant improvement. By embracing hardship and challenges, leaders can drive themselves and their teams to higher performance. This book provides an excellent framework on staying tough when facing adversity.