image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveGrit is a good word. It’s an even better trait.

You know what grit is when you see it. It’s that grind-it-out sticktoitiveness in the face of adversity displayed by individuals long on character and short on “I can’t”

Grit is my mother facing her cancer with courage and resolve.

Grit is my father’s unceasing help with my mother until the disease prevailed.

Grit is the father-in-law we lost who spent a few years sleeping in a freezing tent while getting shot at in Korea sixty years ago.

Grit is my father, climbing from night lock-up at his company and retiring 42 years later as the firm’s president.

Grit is my father-in-law’s father who lived a life that almost sounds fictional. It’s all real. He navigated the Great Depression and beyond in careers that involved running booze in Chicago, examining banks, assembling cars, serving as a journalist and ultimately running drug interdiction flights over the Gulf of Mexico. During World War II, physical ailments kept him out of active duty service, so he founded the Illinois Chapter of the Civil Air Patrol. There’s more than a few retired officers and at least one retired general who owe their careers to this man.

Grit is every active duty serviceman or woman and every veteran I’ve ever met.

You find grit in business, and while the stakes are often not life or death, they are livelihoods and careers.

Grit is the management team who stared down being relegated to the ash heap of corporate history by investing it all on a vision during a period of economic upheaval. It worked and 400 families won.

Grit is every manager who’s ever backed an underdog because she saw something in this person and she invested her care and capital in the individual.

Grit is every leader who recognizes that it’s his/her job to serve, not to dictate. It takes courage to be humble.

Grit is every entrepreneur who ignored Conventional Wisdom to pursue a dream. I wish this character, Conventional Wisdom, would go away.

Grit is the leader who in times of adversity shoulders the burden and refuses to quit and refuses to let her people quit. Remember, individuals with grit are short on “I can’t.”

Grit is the teacher who sticks to it because she knows that there’s one or more in every class that may change the world for the better.

Grit is my friend the marathon runner who won’t stop; the bodybuilder who won’t be denied, the writer who writes every day, even when there’s nothing to write about.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

For those who’ve taught me what grit looks like, I give thanks.

See more posts in the Leadership Caffeine™ series.

Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.