Thoughts on Leadership: The Importance of Grit

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls followed by a Berkshire Hathaway Energy meeting in the afternoon. On Tuesday, I traveled to Orange County and had dinner with Martha Mosier, President of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. On Wednesday, I had a meeting with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices perspectives from Dublin, Ireland; Bucharest, Romania; and Prague, Czech Republic. Afterwards, I met with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties team members at their Irvine office. I then drove to Palm Springs for meetings in the desert. Today, I am finishing up a few more meetings before traveling home.

As I’ve said many times before, real estate operates on a 90-day cycle. What you do today will payout in 90 days. It’s why you have to be so hyper-focused right now in order to kick off 2022 strong. For some, it’s easy. They keep going and going, even as real estate tends to seasonally slow, and while the holiday season keeps us busy with family and friends. For others, it’s more of a challenge but they work through it and keep themselves focused on their goals.

What is it that makes us wake up and put in the effort, giving it 110% even as holiday parties and Thanksgiving dinner plans take us in all directions other than our work?

In a word, grit.

Angela Duckworth, author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” is the leading authority on the topic. She’s a University of Pennsylvania psychologist and says no other factor (not wealth, talent, nor personal connections) defines long-term success better than grit.

But how do you know if you have grit or not?

Here’s a scenario: You’re tasked with doing something out of your comfort zone. It’s nothing you’ve done before – list a certain type of property, lead a big meeting – and without experience, the odds of success aren’t in your favor.

A person lacking grit examines this scenario and says, “Oh well. Another failure.”

A person with grit says, “I’ll show them.” Then, they get it done.


It’s Tom Brady. Sixth-round draft pick. Picked 199th. I’ll show them. And now, one of his many companies is called 199 Productions, inspired by the 2000 draft.

Grit is that “I’ll show them” mindset put to action. It’s not antagonistic; it’s tenacious. That’s why a leader with grit can overcome anything. There is nothing their mind perceives as an insurmountable dilemma.

Bill McRaven served 37 years as a Navy SEAL and commanded at every level. He served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) from August 8, 2011 to August 28, 2014, leading a force of 69,000 people. In his book, “Make Your Bed,” he talks about the words he said to one particular officer while the officer was completing a challenging drill. “Prove me wrong,” Admiral McRaven implored. It wasn’t so much that the decorated veteran thought the officer would fail, it was that he knew how to tap into the officer’s grit-defined will to win.

McRaven once said, “You have to really dig down and say, ‘I’m better than that, I can overcome this.’ You have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and then work harder, learn from your mistakes, and try to do better.”

On our team, many of my colleagues have heard me say, “That’s why we lift all those weights.” It’s all part of the grit.

And grit is something that can be transferred not only from leader to team member but also from leader to the entire culture of your organization.

Writing for the Harvard Business Review along with Thomas H. Lee, Prof. Duckworth brings up the example of the Mayo Clinic, one of the top medical centers in the world. The Mayo Clinic is committed to superb patient care and maintaining the highest quality of doctors and medical professionals on staff. Candidates for the Mayo Clinic are critically observed over a two- or three-day period where employers assess not only their skill set but also their values and how they’d fit in with the medical team. Even after someone is hired at Mayo Clinic, they complete a three-year evaluation period where their talent, alignment to the Mayo Clinic’s goals and grit are all taken into consideration to determine their future prospects of employment.

So, what’s the message? Grit is absolutely a defining factor in the strength of a leader. At West Point, research shows that grit is a better indicator of the cadets that will complete the training than test scores or athletic ability. With grit, cadets can overcome academic or physical challenges others would fail to achieve. Grit is what ascends a leader to the top of an organization or compels an entrepreneur to scale a business despite immense obstacles in their way. For my own story, grit is what allowed me to begin my real estate career with just $1 in my pocket and grow that career into the one I enjoy to this day. The next time you want to give up, or someone says that thing you’re about to do can’t be done, dig deep and find your inner grit then say, “I’ll show them.”

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