The Sheer Power of Grit

The Sheer Power of Grit

With the summer break slowly creeping up on us as the academic semester draws to a close, a significant proportion of us are now scrambling with internship applications for the various established firms and exciting positions available. And so, processes like personality tests, IQ assessments, and other forms of questionnaires have become all too familiar, as it is inevitable for us to go through such screening gates during the application process.

Which leads me to ask – just exactly how useful are these tests, when it has been researched and shown that neither IQ, EQ, nor personality are significant predictors of success? And now you might be wondering, if none of the above can determine your worth or value as a potential employee, what else can? The answer is, accordingly to psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, grit.

Grit is not just hard work, or resilience, or a strong passion and drive. It is not a one-dimensional value. In psychology, grit is a distinct personality trait that is positive and non-cognitive, and is based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate. There is so much to grit, yet so little is known about it. While there have been quotients to gauge intelligence and personality tests to measure traits, there is no standardized test (yet) to measure grit. While there have been courses to improve one’s IQ and EQ, there hasn’t been any to develop or hone one’s level of grit.

Angela Lee Duckworth

Psychologist & TED Speaker, Angela Lee Duckworth

However, there is a certain way of thinking that can influence the level of grit that you have – the Growth Mindset. Created and coined by Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, the Growth Mindset is about believing that success is based on hard work, learning, training, and doggedness; it is about believing not in a static state of ability, but rather, in an ever-evolving growth process that eventually leads one to success. Dweck has found that in students with Fixed Mindsets, where they believe that abilities are somewhat fixed and that doing badly equates to failure, electrical activity in their brains measured almost zero when they confront errors. What does this mean? It means that they run from their errors, that they do not engage with it, that they are afraid to think and that they see these errors as the end of the road.

On the contrary, students with the Growth Mindset experiences immense electrical activity in the brain when they confront errors. They see errors as difficulties that can be overcome with effort and time, and they believe that abilities can be developed. They process the error, they learn from it, they make connections, and they grow. They go through a process of grit, developing them into more capable workers and problem solvers.

Carol Dweck

Professor of Psychology & TED Speaker, Carol Dweck

What this means is that organisations need to recognise that there is more to screening than just IQ and personality tests. Yes, intelligence and personality type does shed some light onto an applicant’s potential for success; however, grit is a more stable predictor for success than the others. It also means that organisations need to start seeing their employees as dynamic people with infinite potential and ever-evolving abilities; organisations themselves need to have a Growth Mindset, in order to inculcate a similar belief in their employees. Demonstrating this would require firms to go all the way down to the way their organisation behaves – how they treat failure, obstacles, errors, and difficulties. Perhaps the best time to demonstrate the Growth Mindset best would be during turbulent times, where leaders are given the opportunity to be truly transformational, and where followers are given the chance to outperform themselves. This is one of the ways in which the organisation can grow and succeed – through grit, resilience, and perseverance.

After all, organisations do not just aim to exist for the duration of a star burst. Growth is not a mere sprint – it is a marathon.


Duckworth, A. L. (2013, April). The Key to Success? Grit. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from Ted:

Dweck, C. (2014, November). The Power of Believing that You Can Improve. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from Ted:

Tomasulo, D. J. (2014, January 8). Grit: What Is It and Do You Have It? Retrieved March 28, 2015, from Psychology Today:

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