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The World Needs Leaders with Grit and Grace

Updated: Apr 28

We live in a world that is increasingly fraught with uncertainties and volatility. Lethal conflicts; economic challenges; record-breaking weather conditions and frequent natural calamities, the threat posed by misinformation and misuse of Artificial Intelligence, societal discontent, and political polarisation have become a part of our lived realities. Unfortunately, the outlook for the world remains predominantly negative over the next few years, with heightened chances of global catastrophes and turbulent conditions (Figure 1). 


Figure 1 - Short- and Longer-Term Global Risks

 

For us to be able to survive and thrive in such an environment, the foremost requirement is to have enabling leaders in decision-making positions. The COVID-19 crisis showed us that Leadership Style was one of the key determinants of success in managing and recovering from the health, social, and economic consequences of the crisis. Research showed that the scale of the crisis was, in fact, the result of colossal leadership failure, but women Heads of State, with their feminine leadership style managed and curbed the impact of the pandemic much better than their male counterparts.


Learning from the Covid crisis, it is evident that inspirational and exemplary leadership with the ability to overcome the challenges posed by uncertainties and crises is a dire necessity. What we need, from those heading governments, corporations and other frontline organizations is to display traits of leading with both Grit and Grace.


The “Grit and Grace Leadership Framework” has been derived using the leadership lessons learned while managing the COVID-19 crisis. This model requires leaders to be empathetic, collaborative, empowering, and service-oriented in addition to being bold, fearless, risk-takers, wise, decisive, and resilient.


Grit and Grace are like Yin and Yang, or two sides of the same coin. They are complementary skills displayed in all great leaders who contributed to a more sustainable world. When we have a chance to select our leaders, whether at political, organizational, or community levels, we need to carefully evaluate whether they display both Grit and Grace!

  

Figure 2 : Grit and Grace Leadership Model

Leadership Traits Displaying “Grit”

Leadership Traits Displaying “Grace”

Ö      Take Bold Decisions

Ö      Take Risks 

Ö      Have Courage to be Authentic

Ö      Build Resilience to Overcome Failures

Ö      Display wisdom, vision, and clarity of thinking

Ö      Have a Clear Purpose

Ö      Communicate Clearly and Honestly

Ö      Be solution-oriented

Ö      Build Social Capital and Strong Relationships

Ö      Be Open to Constant Learning

Ö      Be Collaborative

Ö      Be Honest, Trustworthy and Build Credibility

Ö      Be Empathetic and Willing to Listen

Ö      Empower People

Ö      Build Harmony

Ö      Be Humble and Accept Mistakes

Ö      Make course corrections

 

Leaders must display Grit and Grace  to be “Impactful”


We need leaders who can adapt to the requirements of a BANI (Brittle, Anxious, Nonlinear, Incomprehensible) world. Such leaders would, foremost, need to be risk-takers, displaying fearlessness and agility in taking the necessary initiatives. They must be prepared to make bold and rapid decisions.  

Risk-taking must be bolstered by a high level of openness to learn and accept mistakes; and resilience to quickly pick up and move on from failure. Leaders need to be able to handle adversity with equanimity, maintain perspective and ensure that they don’t allow failure to define them.  


In the day and age where misinformation and fake news travel like wildfire, leaders must have great communication skills to deeply listen to experts and convey messages clearly, unambiguously, and transparently. Most importantly, they must not shy away from being humble and or “showing up” even if things don’t go right. This would help people build trust in them.


Leaders should also be solution-focused rather than blame-focused. Instead of constantly trying to externalize problems and blaming others, leaders should talk about solutions, and collaboratively find a way forward. This will help build their credibility and help them gain support.

 

Leaders must also have Grit and Grace to become “Inspirational”


 “Grit and Grace” displayed together will help leaders to be inspirational in today’s tough times.


For instance, while leaders should inspire with their clear vision and focus for the future, they need to be empathetic to the situation of the people they serve. In extremely challenging times when people want to feel that they’re being heard, leaders must be open to listening and have their ears to the ground.


Since, in this fast-changing complex world no one person, however capable, can have all the solutions, leaders also need to empower others by allowing them to lead. They must encourage diversity of thought and innovation, exhibit confidence in people, and allow them to find solutions. Leaders who empower their people in this way generally build committed teams and find optimal solutions. They also build credibility and long-term followership.


To be inspirational, leaders also need to display their vulnerability and admit when they go wrong or need new inputs, insights or reference points. Vulnerable leaders are confident and have the resilience to withstand criticism, accept failures gracefully and find new and better solutions.


Given the volatility of current and anticipated changes in  economic priorities, business models, team demographics and external influences; inspirational leaders need to actively build harmony in the ecosystem, show compassion and determination to allay fears and uncertainties posed by constant change.


Inspirational  leaders must also have a strong social capital,  built by investing in meaningful relationships with key stakeholders, leveraging their connections, helping others in need whenever possible and collaborating for sustainable growth and well-being of those they lead. A strong social capital amplifies the positive actions of the leaders and minimizes the damage of wrong decisions.


Most  vital for the success of leaders is establishing their credibility. The surest way to build credibility is to be consistent with professed values, deliver on promises made, and acknowledge course correction needed.    

 

Conclusion:

By embracing the 'Grit and Grace Leadership Framework', leaders can inspire positive change, foster resilience, and chart a course towards a more sustainable and equitable future for all, ultimately contributing to the realization of an 'Equiverse' - a universe where equity is the norm, where opportunities are accessible to everyone, regardless of background or circumstance.


So, let us reflect on the traits we admire in leaders, nominate those who exemplify Grit and Grace, and together, strive to cultivate these qualities within ourselves and our communities.


What, according to you, are the most important leadership traits?

Can you add in other traits that you expect from your leaders?

Do you know any leaders with Grit and Grace? – do let us know or tag them in our post.


Blog Co-authored by Ipsita Kathuria, Founder, TalentNomics India and Shravani Prakash, Founder, Ellenomics

26th April 2024

 

 

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