It’s safe to say that the past two years of the pandemic have been a roller coaster, especially in the workplace. From the shift to a hybrid workforce, to constant mandate revisions and return-to-office strategies, to The Great Resignation, leaders have had to stay on their toes and expect the unexpected.

The pace of change and uncertainty isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. In fact, the Harvard Business Review anticipates that as hybrid and remote work continue to be the norm, employee turnover will also continue to increase. Plus, thanks to new COVID variants making headlines, it’s impossible to predict what the future holds.

There’s an old saying that you don’t know your mettle until it’s tested by fire, and I think we can agree that executives and organizations have been tested. Some have been able to adapt and adjust to the perpetual flow of curveballs. They’ve visualized success despite chaotic times and they’ve led their organizations through uncertain waters toward success and sustainability. We’ve also seen the stress of chaos strain leaders, overwhelm their resources and take them down.

What determines if an executive will sink or swim during chaotic times? One might assume its intelligence, experience, personality or luck that enables success. For certain, all those things help – yet the single defining characteristic of success is GRIT.

The Coveted Characteristic of Success

GRIT is the superpower of high achievers. It is a personal characteristic that enables sustained, consistent effort toward a goal when one struggles, falters or temporarily fails. It is the propeller that moves us forward, regardless of circumstances.

More than intelligence, talent or emotional intelligence (EQ), GRIT is the trait that separates good leaders from great ones. It is the growth lever we can draw on to achieve, expand and repeat success, making it an essential trait for all leaders pursuing excellence.

Breaking Down the Categories of GRIT

GRIT is comprised of four main elements: Growth Mindset, Resilience, Initiative and Tenacity. When these categories are combined, transformational results are possible. Here’s a brief overview of each element:

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is the fuel that gets us through the rough journey ahead. It’s the belief that the most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Many of us start out with a fixed mindset, operating as though the status quo is inflexible and there’s not much we can do to change the parameters. It’s a limiting belief system that stunts growth and prevents opportunities from being visible and therefore actionable.

Moving from fixed to growth mindset begins with a valid assessment of where you are on the spectrum. Observing your thought patterns, think about your internal dialogue and listen to the language you use with others. Assess the balance between limited and growth mindset thoughts. If you aren’t happy with the balance, challenge yourself to shift perspectives and consider multiple possibilities for any given situation.

Remember that cultivating a growth mindset is a process, not a destination. It’s a habit that must constantly be practiced.


More likely than not, you’ve been building and depleting this resource throughout the roller coaster of the past two years. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a tough challenge, to traverse a difficult time without imploding and to emerge in a similar or better state (mental, physical, emotional, etc.). It is a reactive trait that we need before we know it, so it’s best to actively build a reserve. Like growth mindset, resilience is a muscle Just like a bicep, it can be built over time to incredible strength – and it can be weakened from under- or overuse.

Resilient leadership is contagious. When leaders remain calm, focused, optimistic and grounded during a crisis, it has a profoundly calming effect on the team or organization, enabling high productivity and low attrition compared to leadership that responds to challenges with low resilience and high emotionalism.


Initiative is about overcoming inertia and taking action in pursuit of a goal. You simply cannot have GRIT without initiative. Change and uncertainty can be paralyzing, and many executives unintentionally slow down decision making, second guess their choices and get caught standing still for too long. Once inertia sets in, it drains resources and it becomes more difficult to maintain a growth mindset and act with resilience.

Initiative is the spark plug of success. To activate it, start with minor decisions and actions that lead to small wins. Create micro deadlines so you can focus on a few tasks that move you toward a goal in steps. As you start the process of meeting small goals, the psychology of achievement kicks in and you will find yourself feeling more optimistic and moving toward the goalpost with increasing speed. The key is to keep moving forward. Pretty quickly, you’ll see how those micro deadlines add up to some pretty incredible results.

Taking initiative as a habit doesn’t mean you can never rest. Taking a pause, camping instead of climbing, catching your breath – these are excellent choices at intervals. It’s when a lack of initiative prevents progress, drains energy and limits your opportunities that taking action becomes essential. Sadly, many fail to meet their potential because they get caught in the trap of inertia and the resulting insecurity it provokes.

If you find yourself in that space, set a small goal. Achieve it. Set another … and keep going.


Known as the ability to persevere under extreme circumstances, tenacity is the oil that allows the engine to run. Even when it’s dark and dirty, tenacity is the character trait that says, “keep going.” We can do hard things, but it takes tenacity in the face of those hard, boring or tiring phases to continue on. And those phases are always a part of the success journey. Marathon runners rely on it – not to run the race itself, but to endure the many grueling hours of training necessary to get to the finish line.

Tenacity keeps us going when we feel like quitting. Successful leaders don’t quit, they stay open, routinely take initiative and persevere on the journey to success. It’s difficult to persevere in tough times and long plateaus, yet passion for something makes it easier. Ironically, it doesn’t even have to be work that you’re passionate about. Studies show that when you spend 20 minutes or more each day in an area of passion, all other areas of life benefit, keeping us engaged, on track and moving forward in multiple dimensions.

The beautiful thing about tenacious leaders is that when all is said and done, they’re able to look back on the challenges and plateaus knowing that they were essential ingredients to their success.

Strengthening Your GRIT Muscle

GRIT is a personal characteristic anyone can possess, and like any other muscle, it’s strengthened through use and care, and it takes time to develop. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is GRIT. Be patient and remember that as long as you’re seeing progress, you’re headed in the direction of success.

If success is important to you, make it a goal to implement some of these techniques into your day-to-day routines. Soon your healthy, GRIT-building habits will be so dependable that you navigate change, challenge and chaos with greater ease and a feeling of deep satisfaction.

Navigate Chaos with GRIT

The world is constantly evolving. Due to the pandemic, new challenges seem to pop up more frequently than ever before, placing an incredible burden on executives and organizations. Embodying GRIT is that magic superpower that will help you navigate each bump in the road and continue to achieve success.