Leadership defined by GPA

by John R. Hill, Jr.

This essay is based on a podcast heard in spring of 2018. The main points in the podcast where conveyed as a definition of hope. Yet, when I heard the points I thought in addition they represented a structure of attributes that when instilled, can lead to developing better organizations, teams and leaders. 

To select and train for success, you can keep the following three main points in mind. Keep them in mind when admitting people into the organization, when voting for leadership or when investing your time and energy in the day to day functioning of the organization. 

Identify individuals that have – GPA:

  • Goals
  • Pathways
  • Agency

A deeper exploration of the main points listed above.


Setting goals for an organization is like placing a star high in the sky, easy for all to see, easy for all to follow and easy to enable all to travel toward a similar destination.

The fundamental truth of a good goal is it should be SMART. 

  • Specific 
  • Measurable 
  • Achievable 
  • Realistic 
  • Time Bound

Specific means the goal has sufficient detail such that when the goal is met the goal states the details of the result that is desired and is targeted rather than being vague.

Measurable means the goal is less subjective and can be quantified; it should be very clear and deterministic by all involved if the person or group met the objective.

Achievable means the goal is something where you can conceive of a solution.

Realistic means the goal is physically possible; the goal is probably challenging but should not be so challenging that the chance of success is small.

Time bound means the goal is constrained to be met within a specific time frame.

A goal should not be stated as, Improve Customer Satisfactions, but instead should be more like improve customer satisfaction by the call center personnel by 10%, before the end of year. It targets Customer Satisfaction within a specific team, has a delineated non-subjective number, hopefully it passes the test that the team being engaged has enough influence to make it practical that they can meet the goal with effort and that they can make changes early enough to enable a final measurement before the end of the year.  This SMART goal when presented to a team or individual, can allow them to plan and execute in ways that lead to the north star of a 10% improvement.


Pathway is composed of 2 juxtaposed characteristics, grit and alternatives. 

A definition of Grit I heard on a TED talk by Angela Duckworth is a great predictor of future success. It’s not money, it’s not IQ, it’s not luck, but it is the ability to withstand stressful and difficult times and to move past failures in order to achieve a goal that is the best indicator of future success. You need to be willing to get back up after a fall and continue the journey.  Money, physical prowess and intelligence can help to smooth the path, but without grit only the easy is achieved. The big audacious goals that revolutionize and change the world are not achieved by the weak, but instead they are achieved but those who believe deep in their soul that what they are doing is important and continue the journey in the best of times and in the worst of times. 

The second attribute of pathway is the capability to conceive and execute a plan-B when necessary. Grit without a Plan-B will have you hitting you head on a wall time after time expecting a different result, but imagining and executing a alternative Plan-B will when necessary allow you to develop and execute alternate tactics without changing goals. 

Balancing grit and alternative solutions is tricky. Not sticking with an activity long enough may not allow it to mature into what was originally conceived. While constantly holding to the original plan may never yield the desired result. Knowing the difference is more art than science, but developing the tools to select either the option of showing grit or flexibility is the goal of exposing the team or individual to both solution options. Sometimes the road to success is through a process of incremental improvement.  Other times it is achieved by tearing down what was and rebuilding something new.

This attribute is the least trainable of the attributes. Usually acquiring the pathway skills of steadfastness (grit) and alternatives (Plan-B) are acquired in youth, but an individual with conviction to a cause can manage to acquire, develop or enhance these skills at any time in life. 


Having a successful year, a successful decade, a successful generation, is dependent on have a team or individual that believes they can do what is necessary to achieve the goal or goals, each individual should believe in themselves and the members’ capacity to support the achievement of the goal.  

Agency is dependent on knowing the rules and limits defined for the group, understanding how to improve and change these rules when necessary and how to communicate successes and failures to improve the future and ultimately to work within the agreed protocol to achieve success. 

Empowering yourself or a team is not an instantaneous proposition; it is achieved though learning, support, coaching, guidance and reducing the fear of failure. Ultimately, the self-confidence that is the result of agency is a necessary support for the other attributes of setting goal and developing pathways.


The tide will ebb and flow as you seek success. This is undeniable. But as leaders we are tasked with coaching team members through both the ups and down of life. A good leader manages the relentless force of the tides which have the capacity to reduce a stone to sand, so that the forces of victory and failure met along the way are not stronger than the euphoria felt or satisfaction achieved when the ultimate goal is met.

Lead your team members on personal journey of improvement. Executing on this developmental path is the selfless execution of tasks that improve self, others and the environment and conditions in which you live.  

May your journey afford you leadership opportunities and may you grant to others the capability to set goals, the grit and flexibility to do what it takes to stay focused on the goal and the agency to believe in their capacity to achieve the goal. May the goals achieved lead to the betterment of mankind.

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Link to: SWOT – your way to a better strategic plan