Rule of Leadership: A Lesson of Grace

A rule to follow which i believe leads to becoming a better leader has to do with grace. That is to say:

“That grace which has been extended to you extend to others…”

By others we mean those within the influence of your leadership.

This is not a difficult rule to follow but humans have a profound talent to take the incredibly easy and make it incredibly difficult.

We like to find good sounding reasons to not do the things that we need to do in favour of those things we want to do or things we claim “just make sense”.

You may ask a person in leadership (who is not necessarily a leader) what moral and ethical obligations their business, corporation or organization has to others and they might simply chuckle and say –

“businesses have no moral or ethical responsibility to others because they are not human. They are impersonal systems built upon a system of give and take, a system of exchange in which employees give of their time and talents in exchange for money and the business exchanges the work of their employees for more money…ethics and morality simply get in the way.”

Of course those who would say such a thing are wrong and short-sighted but they often do not see nor understand why this would be the case.

Businesses, organizations, corporations, etc. are all human extensions. All of these things are reflections of those who are part of them. Primarily they are reflections of those who exercise leadership. Leaders cannot hide immoral unethical decisions behind a facade of inhuman brick and mortor…every organization is a human organization and thus bound by human morality and values.

You cannot always look at an org chart to determine who is a leader in any organization. Leaders are people using and exercising influence over others toward a particular end or goal. Just because a person is a CEO or member of the board of directors does not mean they are leaders. In fact many times those people in the highest positions of leadership are often being led and influenced by others…the real leaders in the organization.

But back to what grace has to do with this we first need a decent definition.

Grace – the unencumbered giving to another of that which is necessary for them to thrive.

Leaders give. This is the nature of good leadership. Bullies take. This is the nature of bad leadership.

The offering of grace to others sets them up to become leaders themselves one day should they be called upon or seek it out. This is what we mean by “that grace which has been extended to you, extend to others”. A good leader has experience with grace – a good leader must have received grace in their lives or else they have no idea how to extend grace to others.

The key to all of this of course is not simply receiving grace but recognizing it for what it is when you receive it. Grace is a little like Schroedinger’s cat in the sense that being observed changes it – it needs to be seen and recognized to be of value.

Grace received by a person who believes it is, in fact, something they deserve (and even earned), loses its grace and becomes a mere commodity, ineffective to use in leading and transforming others.

This brings us to the most difficult task of leadership and where grace plays its most significant role – in the firing of an employee.

There is nothing more difficult than firing someone. Anyone who claims to be a leader and does not agree with this is not really a leader but simply a person put in charge over others – the distinction is huge.

There are all kinds of metrics for removing a person from their position – they are not outputting to the measure they were hired for; lack of ability; they have significant personality conflicts with one or many others in the organization; failure of the organization to generate enough revenue to maintain staffing numbers; criminal activity etc. a lack of understanding grace can conflate and contribute significantly to all of these things.

Without grace people will be removed before their time robbing an organization of the chance to thrive as its employees learn to thrive. Instead a revolving door mentality builds and with it a distinct and bleak lack of hope that has people keeping one eye on their work and the other on the next opportunity.

Such an organization is doomed to mediocrity and caught behind the eight ball of always having to spend enormous resources in training the people who come in to replace those who leave only to see those leave and so on.

Ultimately the key to grace is learning and believing that giving is of greater value than receiving. If this principle is demonstrated by leaders than they give their organization a greater chance of success through the long-term development of invested employees and clients.