Enhance Influence and Results

Add GRIT to Your Leadership Tool Kit



Why do some people succeed and others fail? Most people think grit is purely about basic tenacity and persistence. There is a notion that some people get ahead because they are simply gifted, or well-connected, or both. However, research shows that talent and intellectual ability are greatly overvalued in our culture. GRIT is about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that mindset—not talent or luck—makes all the difference. This paper first explores the four dimensions of GRIT: Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity, and what to do to improve your GRIT. Applying GRIT to a leader's core competencies and universal responsibilities provides a context for discovering the three essential mindsets for enhancing influence and accelerating results. Next, learn how to use GRIT analysis to gain action clarity to achieve your goals. Then read how GRIT enriches the mindsets and related skills associated with emotional intelligence, communication flexibility, and servant leadership.

If we only did things that were easy, we wouldn't actually be learning anything. We'd just be practicing things we already knew.

David Dockterman,
Adjunct Lecturer
Harvard Graduate School of Education

Keywords: leadership, culture, EQ, communication, teamwork


GRIT is “the capacity to dig deep, to do whatever it takes—specially to struggle, sacrifice, even suffer—to achieve your worthiest goals” (Stolz, 2015, loc. 299). A leader can enhance his or her ability to influence and produce significant value by using a GRIT framework to develop the three core competencies of critical thinking skills, execution skills, and communication skills. Additionally, a leader has the responsibility to deliver results, facilitate change, and develop culture (Exhibit 1).


Exhibit 1 – Leadership competencies and responsibilities.

As a leader, these core competencies and responsibilities, when developed to full potential, create opportunities for project managers to transform their client relationship from being seen as an order taker into a strategic partner (Exhibit 2).


Exhibit 2 – Customer continuum.

“Leadership is the ability to set direction; motivate and influence others to collaboratively produce results” (Bristol, 2015, p. 1). Building and sustaining trust-based relationships enhances a leader's ability to create culture and produce valued results. Significantly, a leader's mindset and mental attitude, predetermines his or her response to, and interpretation of, situations. Mindset is where the importance of GRIT is a difference that makes the difference.


What is GRIT? It's more than just sticking with a goal—it is greater than sheer resolve and persistence. True GRIT is about personal energy, commitment, agility, courage, and effort. Most significantly, GRIT is about a mindset—the lens though which leaders makes sense of their world and navigate life. GRIT is about how leaders handle adversity.


Paul Stolz (2015) describes the dimensions of GRIT (Exhibit 3) and the capacities of GRIT (Exhibit 4). The four dimensions are the building blocks that form and fuel a leader's GRIT, and the four capacities shape personal effectiveness and robustness (Stolz, 2015). Superior-performing leaders are balanced. GRIT dimensions and capacities are equally well-developed.


Exhibit 3 – Dimensions of GRIT (Stolz, 2015).


Exhibit 4 – Capacities of GRIT (Stolz, 2015).


Leadership is about trust-based relationships. Therefore, being GRITTY is about how to enhance three core leadership mindsets. These are outward facing, emotionally intelligent, and conversationally intelligent, and are required in order to reach the highest customer continuum levels.


Let's first talk about mindset. As a navigational lens, mindset can be fixed or growth-oriented (Exhibit 5). A fixed mindset is the belief that a person is born with a certain amount of intelligence or potential and that intelligence cannot be changed. A fixed mindset compels behavior to prove that you are smart. A growth mindset is the belief that a person can work hard, ask for help, and try a different strategy to increase and develop potential. A growth mindset is about stretching yourself to learn something new (Dweck, 2006).


Exhibit 5 – Mindset: Fixed and growth (Dweck, 2006).

As the fixed mindset becomes increasingly habituated, limitations and difficulties become seen as failures and the willingness to try new approaches diminishes. Whereas with a growth mindset, GRIT dimensions and capacities are used to recalibrate setbacks and failures (Exhibit 6), reinforcing a learner's mentality.


Exhibit 6 – Mindset: Paths.

Exhibit 7 summarizes key distinctions that differentiate fixed and growth mindsets.


Exhibit 7 – Mindset distinctions


Leaders add value when the competencies of critical thinking, execution, and communication skills are utilized to fulfil the responsibilities of delivering results, facilitating change, and creating culture. Applying a GRIT analysis to any goal will yield insights about what options to consider and actions to take. How GRITTY are you in each of these six areas? For many leaders, the skills to significantly enhance communication and create culture are the most perplexing. Challenge yourself. Take a deeply reflective assessment of the mindsets, outward facing, emotionally intelligent, and conversationally intelligent. Mindset mastery is foundational to leadership development, as well as team and customer relationships.


With an outward facing or “We-centric” orientation, leaders are aware of dreams, hopes, fears, and concerns of team members in addition to their own. With a “Me-centric,” or inward facing orientation, leaders experience others less as a human and more as an object. Furthermore, as an object, an individual can become an obstacle—blocking progress, a vehicle—a tool to provide an advantage, or an irrelevancy—just invisible. Intensifying cultural disintegration, a prolonged inward-facing mindset can adopt a Better Than…, Must Be Seen As…, or I Deserve… attitude, creating heightened interpersonal barriers (Arbinger, 2010). The accumulating interpersonal boxes spawn a need to justify poor behaviors, thus contributing to conflict and productivity loss. BE GRITTY: Challenge yourself to identify the telling signals that an inward-facing mindset is prevalent and develop strategies and actions that foster outward-facing behaviors.


Emotional awareness is central for self-managing and staying productively engaged. Be conscious that the cortisol amygdala cocktail can hamper decision making and hinder trust-based relationships, then know what actions you can take to activate the executive brain, prefrontal cortex, thinking, so a trusting relationship mindset prevails. BE GRITTY: Challenge yourself to identify the telling signals that you are under attack and have preplanned strategies for shifting your source of thinking.


Trust-building communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. As a leader, understanding your personal style of communicating will go a long way toward creating lasting impressions on others. By becoming more aware of how others perceive you, a leader can adapt more readily to their styles of communicating. This does not mean leaders have to be a chameleon, changing with every personality. Instead, with communication flexibility, a leader can make any person more comfortable by adapting to their behavioural style and mindset. Be GRITTY: Challenge yourself to identify your personal communication style and mindset and not overuse your natural strengths. Next, challenge yourself to identify the behavioural clues from other communication styles and learn how to adapt to their style and mindsets to build rapport and sustain trust.


Leaders are in relationships and the cumulative quality of organisational relationships creates a culture. The most influential leaders influence others to collaboratively contribute to the greater food by recognizing and employing each person's talents and humanity of each other, a team can out-produce an individual, and the resulting culture creates a marketplace competitive advantage not easily replicated. Being GRITTY is a challenge and provides a practical way to enhance influence and accelerate result.



Phil Bristol is a graduate of the PMI Leadership Institute Master Class 2010 and a frequent speaker at PMI global congresses and PMI Leadership Institute meetings. In 1999, he was a founder of the PMI Silicon Valley Chapter. He has over 35 years of business experience with a focus on strategic planning, business process improvement, enterprise-wide project management, and leadership development. His presentations and workshops are acclaimed by executives worldwide.


img          philbristolcmcpmp     | img@PhilBristol_CMC    | img projectmanagement.com PhilBristol

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© 2016, Phil Bristol, CMC, PMP, PMI-SP, CPHDA
Originally published as part of the 2016 PMI® Global Congress Proceedings – Barcelona, Spain



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