Once upon a time when we admired someone for their grit and determination we said they had moxie. It’s an old-fashioned word popularized in movies of the Thirties and Forties about those who battled the odds. It’s a word that has always stuck with me, and for that reason I decided to focus my newest book on what it means to have guts, gumption and perseverance – moxie!
Leaders operate in challenging circumstances. They need to advocate for their ideas as well as for the people in the teams they lead. It takes an individual with the courage of convictions to push forward, sometimes against big obstacles, in order to achieve success.
Leaders must also persevere. There is no shame in being knocked down; it is what happens next that defines your character as well as how others perceive you. Roll over in defeat and no one will want to follow your lead. Get back up again and continue the struggle and people will pay attention to you.
At the same time, savvy leaders learn from experience. They may have been flattened for good reason. Their ideas may not have been well developed, or their perceptions of themselves was overblown. Too much ego and not enough awareness!
MOXIE spelled out
And so in exploring the concept of moxie I realized that if I turned it into an acronym it would illuminate what I believe how leaders should behave. Specifically, leaders must demonstrate five key attributes:
Mindfulness – being self-aware as well as situationally aware
Opportunity– seeing possibilities where others see obstacles
X-factor – demonstrating character in all they do
Innovation – applying creativity to risk and reward
Engagement – working with others to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
Put these attributes together and you have an approach to leadershipthat will provide a way forward for leaders. In my experience in working with executives at every level, those who have succeeded demonstrate attributes of moxie in various ways.
First they are mindful they know themselves and they are willing to listen to others. They seldom accept the status quo. When it comes to opportunities they investigate. They also look at problems as opportunities. That is, if we can solve the problem we can solve bigger issues. They are individuals of character; they possess the right stuff of leadership. They innovate by pushing themselves, and especially their colleagues, to think about thinking differently and doing differently.
Most important perhaps they realize that as individuals they can achieve very little. They must mobilize others to action. Not with their words but through their actions. That starts by creating conditions for people to succeed.
Those with moxie are those who do not accept defeat easily. Rather they view it as a learning experience. For that reason they are people of determination. They also have grit, a willingness to buckle down when times are tough. And they are resilient types. And so while moxie might be word more popular in previous generations, it is as timely today as ever.