Developing Leadership Grit (Part 3) Ingenuity or Insignificance

Grit – noun. Firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck.–

Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.

–Angela Duckworth

As with many innovations, the originator of 3M’s sticky yellow Post-its didn’t know what he had at first. Researcher Spence Silver was curious about what would happen if he mixed an unusual amount of monomer into a polymer-based adhesive he was working on. The result was an adhesive that would “tack” one piece of paper to another and even restick, without leaving any residue on the second piece of paper.

The company had no use for the adhesive until 3M chemist Arthur Fry began having problems in the choir loft. The slips of paper he used to mark pages in his hymnal often fluttered to the floor, leaving him frantically searching for his place. Then he remembered Silver’s adhesive. Fry’s better bookmark soon metamorphosed into the handy Post-its that have become fixtures in offices and homes around the world.

Today, 3M is valued at more than $100 billion dollars and I’m sure Post-its is one of the main reasons why.

Throughout this series Leadership Grit, we’ve looked at how grit separates lasting leaders from those who are like shooting stars- brightly on the scene for a while before they burn out. Grit is the difference-maker.

Before diving into the new leadership grit principle, let’s recap what’s been presented to this point:

Leadership Grit Principle # 1Give Up or Grow Up

Leadership Grit Principle # 2Resilience or Retreat

As you develop your leadership grit you will be faced with those choices. Developing grit is a process and is something you develop over time. So let’s take a look at our next principle.

Leadership Grit Principle # 3 – Ingenuity or Insignificance

The Post-it note was developed in part by an act of ingenuity. It had been tinkered around with inside the company in the beginning, but it was the ingenuity of one of its researchers – in attempting to solve a problem, that put the idea for the Post-it over the top as a successful marketable product.

Post-it notes were not the only invention that was stumbled into by accident. Did you know that penicillin, the slinky, corn flakes, Teflon, and popsicles are among numerous inventions that were created by accident?

As it pertains to the role of grit in your leadership or in any other venture, ingenuity or creativity is essential. Being able to look at things in a new way or light is crucial to your success.

Angela Duckworth is perhaps the leading voice on the topic of grit. In her acclaimed book, Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she states, “ When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won.”

You are never more than one moment of creativity away from an idea or solution that can completely change your course for the better. But those moments will never come for you if you give up. Grit in leadership is digging deep and sticking with it even when others have long since given up.

A best practice for developing grit is to play the long game. Be open to searching for new or different solutions to the challenges you face. Harness the power of a shared grit mindset that pulls together the best and brightest around you. It’s important that as a leader you have a grit mentality, but it shouldn’t operate in a vacuum.

Grit survives and thrives with ingenuity. Without it, it can lead to insignificance. As Duckworth says, “Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done, but didn’t”. Grit will require effort, but it will always be worth the effort.


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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