If you asked me to define a Conscientious Leader in one word, I look to Steve Prefontaine. While the great American distance runner from the University of Oregon left this world over four decades ago, he lived and breathed the most important trait of what we see in today's evolved leaders.

In a word: grit.

It was the heart and soul of Pre.

I was fortunate enough to see the majority of his incredibly inspiring races in Eugene.  At 5' 9" and 139 pounds, he would always leave everything on the track. "Somebody may beat me but they are going to have to bleed to do it," he said in one of his more famous quotes.

No matter what event he ran, no matter who he competed against, he always raced the same way. Pre led from the starter's gun and rarely ever looked at another singlet in front of him as he ground the field's legs into rubber by increasing his speed lap after punishing lap.

Now this thing grit is something my business partner and I see regularly in the inspiring and conscientious leaders we've met with over the past 9 months. People dealing with equity issues, social challenges and global environmental impact problems. They most definitely display a powerful combination of passion and perseverance.

In spite of the hurdles facing them, in spite of budget challenges, in spite of dwindling government support, these incredible women and men pursue their goals of "changing the world" with talent for sure.

But what separates the Conscientious Leader from others  is what author Angela Duckworth concludes in her book "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" after studying high achievers in business, sports and entertainment. "Talent is not enough. It is grit that matters most if you want to achieve something spectacular."

In other words, there is simply no slowing down, no quit, no finish line in them. They continue to grind down the challenges they face as they practice day in and day out Benjamin Disraeli's belief that the secret to success is the constancy to purpose.

Just as Pre did around that oval track at historic Hayward Field.

To get our book, "25 Building Blocks To Create a Conscientious Organization" free, go to HCollaborative.com for an instant download.