Military Book Reviews

The Grit Factor

The Grit Factor by Shannon Huffman Polson (Harvard Business Review Press, 2020, 223 pages)

“When you encounter challenges – as each of us will, repeatedly-remember that when you face into the wind, the resistance will help you to rise.” – Shannon Huffman Polson


In The Grit Factor Shannon Huffman Polson is a storyteller. She tells the stories of female trailblazers who achieved unprecedented success in the midst of challenges within the military. As one of the first female Apache helicopter pilots, Polson draws on her ownexperience to explain how leaders, including herself, develop grit–a skill honed from facing constant adversity. But Polson doesn’t stop there. She brings scientific research, military theories, and guided exercises to arm her readers with an arsenal of advice on how to plot their own course for grit.

Commit First

On receiving a request for mentorship, Polson sensed the need for a book to help all who aspire to lead. The advice she shares in The Grit Factor pertains to women in leadership roles who face challenging military and non-military situations, as the two are closely aligned. Polson asserts that, knowing your story and how it can propel you forward through resistance enables future leaders to shape their success. But that’s not the only point she makes. She asks her readers to examine their core purpose, because, as the bedrock to grit, committing to your core purpose will drive you through tough times.

Then Learn and Launch

The Grit Factor is not a one-size-fits all leadership model. However, it is a toolkit that successful leaders are able to fall back on to attain higher levels of achievement. In sharing the stories in the book, Polson explains the kind of mentor to lean on, how to listen like a leader, and how to bridge the confidence gap. She uses the stories of pioneers like Heather Penney, one of the first F-16 female fighter pilots and one of two pilots directed to crash their planes into the hijacked United Airlines flight 93 during 9/11. And like General Ann Dunwoody, the first female four-star army general, commanding a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division. And like Amy McGrath, the first female marine to fly a combat mission and the first to fly an F/A-18 in combat. These women and other female leaders who navigated their paths to success inspire others to follow suit. Through personal stories of fortitude and at times fear, the experience and effort required to build grit comes into focus.

The book is a worthy read for anyone seeking to discover and develop their own grit factor.

Review contributed by Esther Min. She is a DODReads contributor and a known bibliophile. Esther graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2020 and serves as an active-duty officer. In 2021, she plans to attend Undergraduate Pilot Training and spends her free time investing in real estate. Connect with her on LinkedIn at

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