Grit is a buzzword, on trend with gluten-free. But how do we all define it? What does grit look like to each of us? What picture comes to mind when you think about someone having grit? The answer: It depends. It may very well look look different and mean something different to many people. People make meaning and construct reality based on what they know, past experiences, current status, and many other factors that make each and every one of us individuals. Perceptions and understanding are varied and to get to a point of mutuality requires effort and refinement. The psychologist behind the term, Angela Duckworth, defines grit as “sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.” No part of this definition implies that a gritty individual would be someone who lacks emotional intelligence or relationship skills. While Goleman makes a great point that grit isn’t enough for success and that relationship building and management skills are important, why is it assumed that these skills are not present in the concept of grit?
Does it not take a lot of perseverance and focus to practice empathy? Does is not take continued effort to increase our emotional intelligence capacity? Does is not take sustained effort to enhance and maintain our most valuable relationships with spouses, colleagues, friends? While I do not think Goleman is saying it doesn’t, I believe we’re a little too quick to pigeon-hole and stereotype what grit means and what it looks like. I believe the realm of grit is much more complex, multi-faceted, emotional and personal than what we are giving it in our research, articles, conversations, etc. We can agree on a few core components and the value of grit, but maybe it’s time to explore more dimensions of grit in a way that more clearly looks at EQ and social structure within the lives of successful, gritty people.
I find it common that people underestimate the power of perpetually checking assumptions and biases, but I think it is time for us all to do just that. What assumptions are we making about grit? What mental image is summoned when grit is mentioned? Is it a leader who tirelessly works to keep venture capital commitment at the expense of employee needs? Or is it a transformational leader who tirelessly works to keep venture capital commitment and values employee input all along the way? Maybe it’s both, and maybe we need look at grit through a few different lenses than we currently possess.