The Predictive Power of Grit: How to Select Successful People

Topic(s): Rewards, selection

Topic: Selection, Human Resources
Publication: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2007)
Article: Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals
Authors: Angela L. Duckworth, Christopher Peterson, Michael D. Matthews, and Dennis R. Kelly
Reviewed By: Scott Charles Sitrin

Imagine that you are the head of Human Resources, and are tasked with hiring your Fortune 500 Company’s next CEO. You have narrowed the applicant pool down to 10 men and women who are smart (e.g., have high IQs), have previous experience (e.g., CEOs of other Fortune 500 Companies), and come with stellar letters of recommendation (e.g., amazingly, the Dali Lama has endorsed two, President Obama three others, and Warren Buffet one). How do you differentiate between these candidates, and select the individual that will successfully lead your company to the land of milk and honey? True grit.

Duckworth, Peterson, Mathews, and Kelly define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. These investigators found that an individual’s level of grit affected performance in a variety of domains, including educational attainment, grade point average, military retention, and ranking in the National Spelling Bee. Six studies were performed. The first two explored the
relationship between levels of educational attainment and amount of grit among of nearly 3,000 adults; the third looked at grit and grade point averages of 139 undergraduates at an Ivy League College; the fourth and fifth investigated levels of grit and rates of retention of 1,218 West Point Undergraduates; and the sixth examined the relationship between grit and performance of 175 finalists in the 2005 Scripps National Spelling Bee. On average, grit accounted for 4% of the variance in success outcomes in the six studies.

These results suggest that an individual’s personality, and specifically their level of grit, will
affect their performance in academics, the military, and competitions. Grit’s predictive power does not appear to be domain specific, and though it was not shown to predict success among CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies, it seems likely that it could differentiate the great from the good. True grit.

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101.

human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management