How Graceful Is Your Leadership?
Recently we watched the people of the United Kingdom and others from around the world mourn the loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Both the funeral service and the procession that followed were tremendously moving.
As a very young boy, I saw the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) pass by while I was perched on my father’s shoulders. It was her very first trip to our country. The palpable joy of the enthusiastic crowd that day left an indelible impression.
A short time later, I watched her Coronation speech on a very grainy early 50s TV broadcast.
“I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart, I shall strive to be worthy of your trust. Queen Elizabeth II June 02, 1953— London, England
Each year that followed, she would address the world with her annual Christmas message. She would talk candidly about hard things going on in the world and sometimes in her own family.
Yet, her message was always one of wisdom, courage and gratitude.
She always built trust and inspired hope!
Even in her departure, there was a measure of grace and elegance.
Today she is being remembered as a world leader who consistently served the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth with grace and dignity. The crowds lined the streets, and millions more watched online to pay homage and respect. It says a great deal about her legacy and how she will be remembered.
We can only imagine the volume of change and turmoil she witnessed in her seven decades of leadership!
It might be my understatement of all time, but we live in uncertain times.
We’re witnessing one of the most rapidly evolving business and social environments ever seen.
There’s never really has been a time when people could be sure how things would play out. But now, with new powerful forces in motion, it’s dicier than ever.
What’s different now is that the volume and the pace of change have increased dramatically.
Well huh!! There it is.
In the midst of it all, people are looking to leaders for help and hope.
And that takes grace.
Much like authenticity, art, or love, -grace is hard to define.
But we sure recognize it when we see it.
Rocker/philosopher Bono (U2) says it this way:
Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
In a recent book, The Five Graces of Life and Leadership, author Gary Burnison delivers a meaningful and thought-provoking exploration of leadership.
He emphasizes the five kinds of grace that leaders absolutely must have to lead their teams in today’s rapidly evolving world. He also happens to be the CEO of the iconic consulting firm Korn Ferry.
That fact alone grabbed my attention.
In today’s world, leadership is all about establishing community and connectivity.
People instinctively long to be part of something bigger than themselves. But, to have the grace to create this kind of leadership, we need greater self-awareness and a genuine connection to others.
To Burnison, G.R.A.C.E. is an acronym for what great leaders convey.
He calls us to be “radically human leaders with greater self-awareness and genuine connection to others.”
I love that “radically human” part.
The best leaders make their teams feel accepted, safe and secure that they’re headed in the right direction.
It includes insightful discussions on each of the five indispensable graces, including:
Gratitude–the mindset that elevates our spirits, boosts morale and lifts our hearts. It recognizes we’re not in this on our own. We need the help and contribution of others to succeed.
Resilience—that quality that allows us to weather the ups and downs and helps us achieve beyond our wildest dreams.
Aspiration–the knowledge that we can make tomorrow better than today. It elevates everyone’s vision around us of what’s possible.
Courage–the ability to understand and move beyond our fears. This requires us to ask hard questions of ourselves and sometimes others.
Empathy–the understanding needed to connect with others from their perspectives and meet them where they’re at.
Like the late Queen, we all have a limited shelf life with an expiration date. It was only three days before her passing that she was swearing Great Britain’s new Prime Minister.
Like her, we also don’t have any control over when our time is up.
It begs the question …….. – How do you measure a life lived in grace?
Can you say you’ve lived a life of grace?
For me, it’s never been easy. I can’t pretend that I’ve been successful at it in any consistent way.
(just ask my wife)
Have you given yourself grace?
Giving yourself permission to forgive your mistakes, lapses in judgment, or hurtful behaviour is probably the most important of the Graces.
Extending that same grace of forgiveness to others is equally important!
Let’s face it, no one is perfect.
We all have to come to a point where we recognize our fragility and mortality and that we cannot always control outcomes.
Leadership and Grace
“A leader’s higher calling is to surround the organization with purpose.” – Gary Burnison
All of these qualities overlap and intertwine. For example, it’s difficult to be resilient without gratitude and courage.
Approaching each day with gratitude fosters a mindset of humility. You know you can’t achieve success on your own. Humility opens us to greater awareness and the ability to empathize with others.
Then add in aspirations. – That’s truly powerful!
As the leader, it’s your job to see the vision, be the vision and articulate what the vision looks like for everyone in the organization.
Here’s your mission, should you choose to accept it.
(This is a powerful exercise that I encourage my coaching clients to do)
Find some quiet time and space and write a letter to your future self.
In your letter, I want you to consider these questions:
What do you want to be known for?
What accomplishments do you want to have achieved?
How do you want others to remember you?
Be as wordy and as eloquent as you like. Then, when you’re done writing your first draft, set it aside.
Give it some marinade time and come back to it.
When it’s done, keep it close by and refer to it often.
This powerful tool helps you become the change that you want to see.
Until next time.
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