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School Leaders Have GRIT!

Recently I participated in a doctoral study for a colleague at Seton Hall. The study seeks to find common characteristics among students who complete their doctoral degree as compared to those who do not. The current ten-year completion rate in the U.S. is about 50%. The researcher I spoke to, in addition to asking open-ended questions, employed Angela Duckworth’s GRIT scale analysis. Grit is defined as courage and resolve, determination, and perseverance. Duckworth’s book, GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, presents an intriguing concept. The analysis scale is designed to measure two traits, grit and self-control. Duckworth defines the traits in this way,

“Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort towards very long-term goals (Duckworth et al., 2007). Self-control is the voluntary regulation of impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005; Duckworth & Steinberg, 2015).”

Duckworth has found that on average, individuals with more grit are also more self-controlled. Her studies on grit are important because they predict goal achievement. In reading about the GRIT scale analysis, I thought of the many great school leaders that I have been privileged to know. The same qualities that create a higher “GRIT” score, are the ones that good leaders need to be successful. Orientation towards a goal or vision, and maintaining a clear focus without distraction, are important traits of good school leaders.

Leadership that builds capacity and collaboration towards achievement of institutional goals, must maintain clear focus and work towards the goal, without being detracted by the obstacles that may occur. Leaders who are successful in achieving goals have several key traits:

  • The leaders are focused on the people, not the project, build teams, and are good communicators.

Good leaders build teams by fostering collaboration, showing compassion, and bringing out the best in others.

  • They are working towards an inclusive vision that reflects the ideals of the organization.

Their vision includes, rather than excludes, and maintains fidelity to the mission.

  • They are focused on making tomorrow even better than today, and have forward vision.

While content with today, good leaders are never satisfied with status quo, they dream of new achievements for tomorrow.

  • They are courageous and action oriented.

Visionary leaders cannot hide due to fear of failure. They must be ready to make decisions in a decisive manner, realize and admit when a decision didn’t work, and never let a failure deter them from the vision, but use it as a lesson for future success. Good leaders are good learners.

  • Most importantly, they believe in the vision and are passionate about it

A leader is not effective if he or she can’t live the mission and believe passionately in what he or she is doing and why. Visionary leaders foster belief in the mission by the way their own charismatic approach to the mission and vision of the organization is shared with others.

Think about the determination and focus of a great school leader and how his or her perseverance in forwarding the mission of the school community shows grit and determination. The vision, passion, and courage that a strong leader shows, despite the daily grind of budgets, test scores, difficult situations and unexpected challenges is what sets a great leader apart from the rest. Don’t let fear keep you from achieving the best goals for you or your organization!

For more information on Angela Duckworth’s GRIT analysis you can find her TED talk here:

and her GRIT scale here:

#GRITscaleanalysis #strategicplanning #motivation #focus #Leaders #communication #collaboration #values #SetonHall