Paul Raggio | True grit

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I’m a fan of John Wayne. I grew up watching his movies on the big screen, and one, in particular, is my favorite — a 1969 movie adaptation of Charles Portis’ classic western novel titled “True Grit.” John Wayne won Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of 1850 U.S. Marshal Roster Cogburn, an aging, one-eyed, overweight, trigger-happy, hard-drinking man. The story is about a 14-year-old daughter, Mattie Ross, avenging the death of her father at the hand of Tom Chaney, a no-good drifter, and scoundrel who shot her father after stealing $150 and two gold pieces from him. Mattie searches for a man with enough grit to take Chaney on and bring him to justice! Rooster Cogburn was just such a man! 

We all can recall such examples of people who display true grit and the will to succeed. For me, I immediately think of a colleague of mine, Terry Moreau. Terry was a talented, charismatic, bigger-than-life military leader and one of the few paratroopers who earned a Bronze Star on his master parachutist badge in 1989 for jumping in and leading his paratroopers into Panama while under fire by the Panamanian Defense Force. I was fortunate enough to serve with Terry during operations Just Cause, Desert Shield and Desert Storm. 

Terry retired from the Army in 1999 and went to work for an international security services company as the general manager of the protective forces at Kennedy Space Center. Soon after he retired from the Army, Terry contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease, an insidious illness that attacks the muscles and eventually ends in respiratory failure and death. Terry courageously fought the disease for years and survived much longer than his doctor’s prognosis. Terry lived true grit until his passing and served as a model to me on the will to succeed. 

Boards of directors look for true grit in their leaders and will often comment that he or she has the requisite determination to get us through any level of difficulty. Like Terry, gritty leaders persevere through adversity; they are visionary and in the game to the end; they just don’t give up. They commit to goals and inspire and motivate their subordinates to achieve them. They give confidence to their followers that, no matter the struggle, they will successfully see it through to the end. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over the years despite failure, misfortune and plateaus in progress. The gritty leader approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty leader stays the course and demonstrates a will to succeed.  

Paul G. Stoltz wrote a book in 2014 titled “GRIT, The New Science of What It Takes to Persevere, Flourish and Succeed.” GRIT, a play on the word grit, is an acronym that stands for Growth, Resilience, Instinct and Tenacity. Growth is your propensity to seek and consider new ideas, additional alternatives, different approaches and fresh perspectives. Resilience is your ability to respond constructively and ideally make good use of all kinds of adversity. Instinct is your gut-level capacity to pursue the right goals in the best and smartest ways. Tenacity is the degree to which you persist, commit to, stick with, and relentlessly work at whatever you choose to achieve. When you master growth, resilience, instinct and tenacity, you will persevere, flourish and ultimately succeed. GRIT is a winning formula for any leader. 

Recently I wrote about teams and the essentiality to select a competent leader with the appropriate knowledge, skills and ability, and necessary judgment, emotional intelligence, decision making, communication, cultural and collaboration attributes to lead a team at a specific organizational stratification successfully. Add to those lists of attributes Stoltz’s GRIT. 

We see the importance of having competent, gritty leaders during this pandemic, those who seek to serve, are willing to grow, and who are resilient, instinctual and tenacious in problem-solving through this once-in-a-generation calamity. Leadership will not defeat the virus. Only we, remaining vigilant, and science contributing a vaccine and therapeutic solution, will. However, because of competent leadership, we will persevere, flourish and ultimately succeed when we poke our heads out of this pandemic nightmare. 

Without competent leadership, our misfortunes will persist, troubling as that may be. This is how you lead, think, plan and act!  

Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions.

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