Where Leaders Find Their True Grit


We admire grit in our heroes, but it is absolutely essential for our leaders. In this post I share where leaders find their grit.

John Wayne is synonymous with the American Western. In 1970, Wayne won an Oscar for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Not only did the actor star in dozens of films, but at 6 feet 4 inches, and 225 pounds he embodied the ruggedness he portrayed.

We admire grit in our heroes, but it is absolutely essential for our leaders! That is the word from leadership experts James Kouzes and Barry Posner.  In The Truth About Leadership: The NO-FADS, Heart-Of-The-Matter Facts You Need To Know, Kouzes and Posner insightfully note:

The context of leading may change, but the content of leading changes very little.[1]

A portion of that unchanging nature of leadership is the resilience of spirit we call grit. Technically, leadership grit is "that firmness of spirit, that unyielding courage that is essential in dealing with challenge."[2] Conventional wisdom and social science research both testify to the importance of grit.

Grit is essential. But where do we find it? Is it just a matter of "digging deep," of "going the extra mile," of "suffering through the tough times"? Or is there something else?

God gives us the answer through the apostle Paul. Paul would have fared well in the wild west. He had grit. More importantly, he understood its source.

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11 ESV)

Paul reminds me of two things:

  1. Leaders find true grit when they set their hope on God.
  2. If God has the power to raise the dead, then he can help us stand strong in any situation. Knowing this, we set our hope on him to deliver us again and again. It is confidence in God--not self--that builds the inner resilience to hang tough.
  3. Leaders find true grit when others pray for them.
  4. We need others to pray for us. God uses the prayers of his people to help us stand strong in the nitty gritty of life. Knowing this, who are you asking to pray for you?

Leaders don't have to be John Wayne to have true grit. We find the inner resilience we need when we set our hope on God. So lean on him and ask others to pray for you, because God is the One who gives leaders true grit.


1 Kouzes and Posner, The Truth About Leadership, p. xvii.

2The Truth About Leadership, p. 99.

3The Truth About Leadership, p 101.