A state of grace in leadership
A year ago I asked a group of MBA students I was working with what qualities someone needed to be a great leader. ‘A great leader needs to be savage,’ was the first response. What the speaker meant was leaders have to make tough decisions and so be ruthless when needed. A debate about how we lead rather than what we do ensued especially as the session I was running focused on heartfulness as a vital quality of leadership.
I was, however, reminded of this rather stark response recently when catching up with events at the World Economic Forum and read this piece about the under-valued, and often lacking, trait of grace in leadership https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/most-leaders-are-missing-this-crucial-character-trait/
The authors cite some of the stereotypes of robust leadership promoted through the media – The Apprentice on both sides of the Atlantic would support the view of leaders needing to be savage. Yet, the reality is that grace in leadership, and in life, achieves far more and in a far more human, kind, compassionate, loving and inclusive way.
Cultivating grace in our leadership takes us away from the ‘succeed at all costs’ mentality that can so often be driven by the pressure to deliver, and into a desire and drive to succeed in the right way. It helps us recognise and celebrate the unique contributions of all involved in the endeavour and give due credit. It helps us connect with a humility that attracts others to our cause willingly rather than having to employ hierarchical power to get people to give their effort.
Grace helps us to tackle the tough stuff – poor behaviours or performance, or difficult decisions that affect people’s lives and livelihoods – in a heartful way. While the decision may still hurt, people can accept that it is necessary and has been taken with deep thought and caring.
As the world of work becomes increasingly complex and challenging, and people have less surety about the future more grace in our leadership can surely make a difference to their daily experience of work. And, equally important, we will be setting the example for the leaders yet to come so that the idea that leaders have to be savage withers into the distant past, where it belongs.