These past two years have been challenging. A global pandemic with disheartening resurgences, political unrest over civil liberties and our nation’s direction, economic strains and a palpable social angst extending from our communities into the heart of our families.
It’s reminded me that the most pivotal periods of our lives are often those tough circumstances requiring grit: unwavering focus of mind and spirit, unyielding courage, a faithful reach for triumph in the face of hardship. In my 30 years of professional experience, five elements stand out as forging grit in leadership.
Perspective. In life, we must play the cards we are dealt. When hit by crashing waves of adversity and we are left disoriented, let’s first pause momentarily to center ourselves on who we are and want to be. Remind ourselves of our bedrock values, such as courage, truth, honor, service. Then turn and squarely face the challenge, pursuing it directly and bravely. See through it with our mind’s eye, envision it as a portion of road with open highway beyond.
Look long, illuminate the bigger picture. Permit ourselves some hope and faith, learning to be okay in the fogginess of not having all solutions immediately. One foot in front of the other, greater clarity progressively arriving. Know there is great peace and empowerment in overcoming.
Purpose. Place our openness to authentic purpose at the center of our challenge. Purpose electrifies grit. Overcoming is about leaning in, throwing our heart into it, roaring with all our might and louder than we thought we could. Difficult trials nudge discovery of our unique gifts, what we’re made of and why we’re here.
Purpose is often driven by two things: A passionate pursuit of personal growth, and service to others. Adversity is where growth resides, as we reach for the best version of ourselves. “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor,” said President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Moreover, every challenge has within it seeds for service to others, a place for duty and honor. Purpose higher than self is the strongest and most resilient of all, supercharging our ability to create, collaborate and contribute. As author Tony Robbins said: “It is not what we get. But who we become, what we contribute…that gives meaning to our lives.”
Creativity. Give it our very best, remain open to growth and service, and through creativity the pathway forward will reveal itself. Cultivate collaborative creativity by bringing the right people together and listening well. The key is inspiring others, nudging and encouraging. Nourish the team with camaraderie. Rallying together is precisely what gets us through, adding creative power and meaning and beauty to the journey. Keep fear in check along the way. Creativity means creation — reaching for and finding what is not yet apparent. Have faith we’ll find it. There is almost always a way through if we faithfully work together and allow for creative thought.
Humility. Don’t let the strain turn into rigidity, stubbornness. Strength without humility is weakness. Be at peace, centered, open to the finest ideas no matter where they come from. Humility frees us from insecurity, freeing us to be the best possible version of ourselves. With humility our life challenges can be embraced more peacefully, and our resilience strengthens.
Humility nudges us to seek input and share successes, invite collaboration, welcome others to the journey with us. Make it about something greater than ourselves. “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit,” said President Ronald Reagan.
Gratitude. Choose a mindset of gratitude, of abundance, not scarcity. Authentic appreciation and care for others nourishes and reenergizes everyone, including the giver. We cannot be truly healthy and our best without it. Recognize that all great accomplishments rest on something far greater than ourselves. Celebrate each incremental step during the journey. Gratitude works like a magnet for the best in each of us.
“When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears,” said Tony Robbins. When tired, gratitude reminds us why we each matter, and that we’re in this together. Gratitude helps replenish our spirit.
Why is grit in leadership important? It’s the ingredient needed to capture success from the jaws of defeat. It’s the response to tests and trials revealing our unique gifts. It’s the grindstone against which we hone the finest version of ourselves. And it’s a vital ingredient in working together with purpose, heart and determination for maximum success.
Tim Strickler is principal of Strickler Consulting LLC, a professional services firm based in Springettsbury Township, York County, offering interim CFO and strategic project services. A former finance executive at The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., he can be reached at [email protected] or 717-870-8547.