Grit, Grace & Gratitude — Lessons in Transformational Leadership from Mason Awtry

Rob Kubiak
5 min readFeb 10, 2022

As a serial entrepreneur, one of the things I realized early on is that the mark of a true leader is his or her ability to focus on the present while simultaneously planning for the future. A leader’s role is not to control people or stay on top of things, but rather to guide, energize and excite. I find that the most essential quality for leadership is not perfection but credibility. People must be able to trust you and trust, in turn, produces speed and productivity because it feeds collaboration, loyalty, and ultimately, results.

As we headed into 2023 with all the challenges and obstacles we’ve faced over the past two years, I felt that the embodiment of GRIT, GRACE and GRATITUDE was what it was going to take for the portfolio of companies that I’ve founded to continue to thrive. I told my team that it takes GRIT to follow your dreams over the long haul through all of the setbacks and struggle and hat we need to stick to those dreams amidst the distractions. That GRACE is all about pursuing a courageous life with kindness and compassion for others, as well as for ourselves. It’s about supporting one another as well as our clients and partners on their path while at the same time pursuing our own. GRATITUDE grounds us and keeps us positive and in the right headspace rather than allowing us to be caught in the tentacles of circumstance.

I felt that the theme of GRIT, GRACE and GRATITUDE aligned directly with John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership, which was instrumental for me in identifying the key qualities of being a transformational leader — Integrity, Vision, Influence, Passion, Servanthood, Confidence, Problem-Solving, Communication, Creativity, Teamwork, Attitude, Self-Discipline

For those of you unfamiliar with the book, there are five levels of leadership (with 5 being the highest) which I’ve outlined below along with a brief description of why people follow you at each level:

5 Levels of Leadership

· 5 — PINNACLE (who you are and what you represent)

· 4 — PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT (what you’ve done for them)

· 3 — PRODUCTION (what you’ve done)

· 2 — PERMISSION (they want to)

· 1 — POSITION (they have to)

Over time great leaders have the capacity to move from #1 up to #5 but having endurance and knowing what it means to be persistent is critical. Great leaders don’t give up; they understand that real and lasting change goes beyond short-term gains. That truly concrete and meaningful change does not happen overnight — you have to be patient and it will happen as long as you have confidence and remain consistent. You also have to be honest and straight-forward and remain open-minded and willing to change. Being accessible to your team is also crucial and remaining broad-minded in the accomplishment of goals is imperative because intolerance creates friction and stunts growth. What really sets great leaders apart though is being compassionate and concerned for others. Being empathetic, nurturing, encouraging, and supportive of others.

As I thought about it more, I recognized that to successfully reach the pinnacle or summit of leadership (Level 5), that it could be done through the personification of Grit, Grace and Gratitude. How can this type of strategy be implemented? Well, the way I did it with our portfolio of companies was starting with bold, innovative, and sometimes controversial major change initiatives.

Grit — Gritty leaders are able to conquer their own fears while maintaining their composure and integrity, even at times when it feels as though it goes against their better judgments. They have a willingness to accept failure by taking the right risks to produce desired outcomes. At this stage you are approaching Maxwell’s 3rd level of Leadership

Grace — Leaders that embody grace will make themselves great, and in turn, the organizations they lead will also thrive. But at the end of the day, the attractiveness of an organization to talent, both in and outside the company comes from top-down grace. It’s about moving beyond Levels 1–3 and moving up to the 4th level of Leadership.

Gratitude — Let’s face it. Grit and grace are hard. Gratitude makes them easier. Stopping every day for as little as a minute or two to acknowledge or jot down just a few things for which you are grateful is massively powerful. Why? Because gratitude turns what we have into enough. Right now, someone is praying for something we take for granted. Being able to pause, acknowledge and incorporate gratitude into your daily routine is ultimately what will get you to that elusive 5th level of Leadership.

Like a lot of people and organizations, you might feel ‘stuck’ or unable to affect change in such a way that you feel your personal or professional life is being impacted. It feels like transformational change sounds great in theory, but how can it be implemented? Typically, change occurs in people’s lives when they experience one of three things:

1. Hurt enough and have to (pain & adversity)

2. Learn enough and want to (education & experience)

3. Receive enough and are able to (support & equipping)

As a serial entrepreneur, as you can probably imagine, my own journey of transformational change hasn’t taken a linear path and there’s no right or wrong way to go about pursuing your own transformational leadership goals. I encourage to you look diligently and search fearlessly for any options that might open your mind and heart in such a way that you can achieve your goals. True leadership involves self-mastery.

I’ve literally explored every option I can find, including plant medicines and microdosing. I’ve tried basically anything that can inspire me while keeping me committed to my own personal, professional, and spiritual growth. Some may balk initially at the idea of psychedelics and plant medicine. Let me say that ever since plant medicine has entered my life, I go that extra mile daily to commit to my inner work. To shed any perceived limitations in my thinking — whether it’s my self-sabotaging patterns or fear of self-expression. I make the conscious decision to teach less, and embody more, because after all, we can only lead by example. I mindfully and intentionally choose what I need to focus on, which ultimately determines the businesses and impact I can create.

One of the things I’ve realized through my journey is that knowing when to use the mind to execute, and when to listen to the heart for guidance is an art that involves vulnerability, trust, and openness. It’s the GRIT, GRACE and GRATITUDE and getting to that 5th Level of Leadership. As we continue to allow ourselves to surrender to the wisdom of our hearts and souls, we can redefine success and transform leadership in ways that generate conscious collaboration and empowerment for us all. Here’s to the start of your own transformational leadership journey!

Mason Awtry is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of Wurkwel Ventures. For more information about his portfolio of companies, lessons on transformational leadership or any other questions call 312.698.6968 or visit