Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Global Leadership: Grit and Persistence II: "The Hard is What Makes it Great"

Although I read a lot, I seldom read "leadership" books.  More often I read history or biography for leadership insights.  Most recently I've been reading Jon Meacham's excellent biography of the American Revolutionary and third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.  It's not the first one I've read about Jefferson, but Meacham manages to paint a much richer portrait of the man and his times than others.  I recommend it.

Writing in 1790 to a colleague during the French Revolution Meacham quotes a Jefferson letter:  "So far it seemed that your revolution had got along with a steady pace, meeting indeed with occasional difficulties and dangers, but we are not to be expected to be transported from despotism to liberty in a feather-bed"

It may seem an odd connection but one of my favorite movie clips is from the American movie "A League of Their Own" about an American Women's Professional Baseball League.  In this scene, actor Tom Hanks confronts actor Gina Davis who is preparing to quit their team.  A link to the short 1 minute 49 second clip is here.  The punch line of the scene comes at the 1:35 point:  "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great"

For me, all these threads tie together.  Angela Lee Duckworth's definition of grit:  Persistence combined with sustained passion I discussed in my 29 October blog, Paul Tough's recent research on how children succeed referred to in the 20 November blog, Meacham's Jefferson quote and yes, a clip of a movie about American women playing baseball are connected.

Being a leader is hard. It always means influencing people to do what they wouldn't otherwise do on their own.  It often means overcoming challenges and resistance. It almost always involves risk taking with the ever present prospect of failure. It involves allowing and encouraging divergent views to surface and then the skill to converge those views for the good of the whole.  It's hard.

But it seems a truism in human affairs, from the profound events of political revolution that change nations, to the day-to-day affairs of ordinary people.....Everything worth doing is hard and the only way to a successful outcome is persistence combined with sustained passion

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