Unleashing the Power of Humility, Resilience, and Grit for Student Success

Principals lead schools, inspire students, and improve school achievement—and many of the strongest leaders share three key characteristics. In this blog, we’ll explore how unleashing the power of humility, resilience, and grit can lead to greater student success.

As a facilitator of learning for leaders, we have the opportunity to work with leaders in all stages of their careers.  While our role is to lead these sessions, we often leave feeling inspired by the participants, too. We recently had the honor of guiding a group of principal superheroes in the making. These leaders were all about personal growth, shaking up the status quo, and creating environments where students don’t just survive—they thrive! 

Now, let’s talk about leadership. In the world of education, where challenges lurk around every corner, strong leadership is critical. But what are some characteristics that set remarkable leaders apart? It’s their ability to harness the mighty forces of humility, resilience, and grit.


Principal Danielle Kusmak, of Alamogordo Public Schools, dropped some serious wisdom at a recent training session when she said, “I can’t afford not to make a mistake.” 

Her admission reveals the heart of humility in action. At first, it seems counterintuitive. Most of us would say we can’t afford to make a mistake. After all, mistakes can be expensive. First, we have to admit we were wrong, which may cost us our reputation. Then, we may need to apologize, sacrificing our pride. Next, we must take steps to correct our mistake, which may cost time or money. Perhaps we hired the wrong person, and now must invest in re-hiring and training. Or, we said the wrong thing, and now need to invest in PR to get the right message out. Perhaps we double-booked appointments, and now several people have to adjust their schedules. 

Everyone knows mistakes are costly—but how can we avoid them? Unfortunately, it’s impossible. Many leaders feel like they are required to be perfect, but of course, no one can live up to the expectation of perfection. With that in mind, the only way not to make a mistake is if you never try at all. (What could be a worse mistake than that?) 

Leaders understand that no one is perfect, and mistakes can and will happen. It is how we deal with them that matters. Humility is about owning up to our flaws, embracing the messiness of growth, and turning every stumble into a step forward. By being humble, we give ourselves permission to try new things, and not to be afraid of making mistakes. Instead, we can use mistakes as opportunities to accelerate our leadership, and improve.

But humility isn’t just about owning our mistakes—it’s also about recognizing that we’re stronger together. That’s where collaboration comes in. In professional learning sessions, we enjoy seeing the magic that happens when people work together and share ideas. Instead of barking orders from the top down, great leaders invite everyone to the table. Teachers, staff, students, parents—everyone’s got a voice, and all ideas matter.

And let’s not forget the power of listening. Too often, leaders can get caught up in the sound of “busy,” forgetting that real magic happens when we get quiet and listen. When we truly hear what our community has to say, we unlock insight and innovation, opening doors we had not considered.


Leading isn’t always smooth sailing; there are storms to weather and challenges to overcome. But outstanding leaders don’t give up when the going gets tough—they dig in their heels and tackle problems head-on, harnessing resilience. 

Principals may be responsible for many tasks, including overseeing school administration, improving student achievement, managing yearly budgets, engaging the community, and more. With each of these responsibilities, there are also potential challenges, such as staffing shortages, lower-than-expected test scores, student disciplinary concerns, budgetary shortfalls, a lack of parental engagement, school safety issues, and more. It is easy to become overwhelmed by these problems. However, strong leaders demonstrate to their teams that setbacks are simply part of the journey to success, not the end of the road.

Resilient leaders remain calm and focused, even in high-pressure situations. They think rationally and make sound decisions that help the school move forward in a positive way. Instead of focusing on the negative, they take proactive steps to progress through problems, advancing toward a solution. This resilience provides a sense of stability for the school, and inspires confidence in students, teachers, administrators and parents. Regardless of what we are handed as school leaders, we owe it to the kids we serve to remain committed to their education, and bounce back from setbacks to become even stronger.


Finally, there is this four letter word: grit. The secret ingredient that takes resilience to the next level. Grit is that unwavering determination to keep pushing forward, no matter how tough the going gets. It’s what can separate the dreamers from the doers.  

New York Times Bestselling author Angela Duckworth popularized the importance of this quality in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, which highlighted her research on the subject. In it, Duckworth explains that grit, a combination of passion and perseverance for a singular long-term goal, is a hallmark of high achievers—including teachers, National Spelling Bee finalists, banking CEOs and professional sports coaches. Duckworth’s study results found that grit accounted for a 4% of variance in success outcomes, including educational attainment, grade point average, retention at West Point U.S. Military Academy, and ranking in the National Spelling Bee.   

We often hear about grit in terms of student success, but it is just as important in leadership success. Anything worthwhile requires focused effort and the strength of character to keep pushing toward your goals—and leading schools to success is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.


Here’s to the leaders.

At 806 Technologies, we celebrate leaders who dare to dream big, stumble often, and never, ever give up—and we encourage the schools and districts we work with to do the same. By embracing humility, collaboration, resilience, and grit, you are not just transforming schools. You are changing lives. That’s a journey worth taking. Let’s do this! 

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