Leadership Competencies

The Secrets to Grit and Resilience

Last month, I was struck by a piece written by Eric Barker titled: A Navy Seal Explains 8 Secrets to Grit and Resilience.  The article offers insights into why, in the face of adversity, some people quit while others redouble their efforts. Barker cites research into what he describes as the emerging science of grit and resilience.

Grit and resilienceAs a result of reading this piece, I was compelled to invite Brandon Andrews – recently discharged from active duty service as a Navy SEAL – to attend part of my Vistage group meeting and to share some insights and lessons from his years of service. Brandon is now the founder of Trident Consulting, a San Diego-based firm consisting of active duty and former Navy SEALs. Team Trident strives to share their insights on leadership, teamwork, and how to operate successfully in uncertain and changing environments.

It was amazing to hear Brandon speak about his time in combat and how applicable the leadership and teamwork principles are to our business world. His insights align closely with the eight secrets to grit and resilience Eric Barker described in his article. What’s more, they are also consistent with what our Chairs talk about with our members when they face difficult market challenges or attempt to achieve lofty goals. Here’s how we tend to think about them at Vistage:

  1. Purpose and meaning.  As Simon Sinek says, it’s all about the WHY. Our Chairs and members are driven by the larger purpose of what they do.
  2. Make it a game.  We don’t suggest making it a game to trivialize the challenge. We do so to stoke our members’ competitive fire.
  3. Be confident — but realistic.  This is exactly how we challenge our members.   You may recall how Jim Stockdale, the most-highly decorated officer in the history of the U.S. Navy, described what it took to survive his eight years as a POW during the Vietnam War.  He said, “You must never confuse the faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”
  4. Prepare, prepare, prepare.  As Waters points out, Navy SEALS spend about 75% of their time practicing and roughly 25% engaged in missions.  Too often in business, every day is a mission; so it’s essential to do whatever you can to take time to prepare for whatever the marketplace has in store for you.   That’s, in part, what Vistage meetings are for!
  5. Focus on improvement.  While the SEALs conduct a debriefing at the end of every mission, regardless of how well it may have gone. They do so in pursuit of continuous learning and sharing that learning with their comrades. At Vistage, continuous improvement is in the fabric of our community.
  6. Give help and get help.  For us, it’s about generosity, reciprocity, and accountability.  Giving help in a “carefrontational” way increases the feeling of meaning in our lives.
  7. Celebrate small wins.  John Kotter’s eight steps for implementing organizational change have been tweaked many times over the years, yet celebrating small wins is consistently part of the mix – and for good reason.  It’s not only a time to recognize individual and team contributions in pursuit of a longer-term goal, but also an opportunity to reconnect your employees with your overall purpose. In life it is often more about the journey than the destination.
  8. Find a way to laugh.  Purposeful and meaningful work should always be accompanied by a healthy dose of joy.  It’s that joy and the ability to laugh at ourselves from time to time that sustain us over the long haul.

My peers were blown away by Brandon’s story and the applicability of his experiences with The Navy Seals to their own organizations. Brandon’s story is not only inspirational, it is full of wisdom and acumen far beyond that of someone in their mid-twenties.

Stay tuned for more on Brandon’s story. In the meantime, I invite you to read Eric’s piece and tell us how the 8 secrets apply to you and your organization!  Which one is your favorite?

Category: Leadership Competencies


About the Author: Leon Shapiro

Leon was named CEO of Vistage effective March 31, 2013. He is also a Director at The Advisory Board Company (NASDAQ: ABCO) and eTouches Inc. Between 2007 and 2011, Leon served as Senior Vice President, Strategy and Operations, at Warner Musi…

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