Grace: A Distinctive Trait of Great Leaders What It Means to Have Grace in Leadership
Grace is a term that we usually associate with the Christian faith or with someone who has social graces, but not typically leadership. I have recently been thinking about grace when it comes to leaders, and I believe great leaders have grace—a generous spirit that is healing to the souls who follow them.
What does it look like when a leader has grace? Allow me to share a few thoughts with you on this topic.
Dale Carnegie said, “Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness. To know all is to forgive all.” That’s a spirit of grace.
Grace appears when a leader gives free and unmerited favor to someone. Grace is required when a mistake is made or when we feel offended. Think of when someone cuts you off and honks their horn at you while driving. If you slow down and let them pass, and don’t return the same action, that is grace. They deserved to be honked at, but you didn’t.
One person in my life who demonstrated much grace is my father. During my childhood we had two cars stolen at different times. Neither time did my dad get perturbed. He actually said, “Maybe they need the car more than us.” Offering others a spirit of grace is exactly what we like to be offered. We don’t want to be condemned when we make mistakes, when we fall short. We want to be understood and supported when we don’t make the cut, when we can’t pull our weight.
Some think that when we offer grace, we are less effective with people because we cannot say what needs to be said. I have found the opposite to be true. The more grace I show, the more effective I am in reaching others and affecting change.
Grace does not mean we don’t see faults or say anything about them. It means we don’t have a critical spirit, and we don’t react when things go wrong. Instead, I am patient; I have self-control. I value the person more than the error. It is amazing what grace does to our souls. Grace heals, builds, waits, hopes, empowers, and teaches.
May we all grow daily in grace as leaders.
By the way, I spoke about this topic in more depth last week at our Third Annual Healthy Leadership Retreat. I appreciate all of the great speakers and all of the attendees. We have not yet set the date for next year’s Retreat. Stay tuned.
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