The Gravitas & Grit Series: Part 1 “Go Small to Go Big”

This is the first in a series dedicated to important characteristics of leadership: gravitas & grit.

“Courage and resolve; strength of character” – “Small, loose particles of sand” Both are definitions of “grit.” 

Grit is a word defined in two ways: one definition positive and soaring, the other speaking to the dirt beneath our feet. Displaying grit in the face of disappointment or annoyance (akin to getting a grain of sand in your eye) takes gravitas. As leaders, we want the ‘big win,’  seeking executive support along with significant capital and/or FTE uplift. It can be frustrating to get lukewarm or even frosty responses.

Sometimes, grit is not persisting with a big idea that is not getting traction (else you risk becoming the grain of sand in your colleague’s eyes), it is deliberately placing the idea on a back burner and purposefully seeking a different path to success. One such path is seeking different wins. 

Seek out willing partners with whom you can partner successfully. For example, small or mid-size business units’ technology needs often get eclipsed. A chain of “wins,” even at smaller scale, builds trust and shows that you and your team can move the needle.

·       Get your team to compile a list of ideas for small projects. Identify a couple that you could do without asking for material additional funding

·       Go and visit the relevant unit leader(s) and offer to partner on doing the project. If it is a leader you don’t know well, you might start with coffee or lunch to break the ice. (And recommend going to their location.)

·       Seek ways that your team could do the work without having to charge the receiving unit. Sometimes your company’s accounting or charge-back mechanisms don’t allow for this, but don’t let that deter you. Work with your new partners to find a way.

·       Showcase some of your best & brightest people, even if they have minor deliverables on the project.

·       Stay personally involved in the project – don’t just delegate and disappear.

·       Identify real business results from the project that will resonate with others, and work with your new partner(s) to communicate and showcase.

·       Don’t expect small wins to lead immediately to turning around the cool responses on big projects; you are building trust about your ability to influence and deliver.

We all have choices when our big ideas aren’t adopted. There are alternatives to “going big or going home.” Choosing an alternate pathway to success is not giving up; it’s having the wisdom and insight to find a different way to win. 

“For the Romans, gravitas denoted a man’s metaphorical ‘heaviness’ — a strength of purpose, sense of authority, depth of character, and commitment to the task at hand that together formed a structure sturdy enough to bear the weight of his significant responsibilities” Brett McKay

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