What does it mean to lead with grace?
That’s a question that I have been exploring for the last couple of years, and likely longer, as I write and teach what grace means to us as individually and culturally. My definition of grace is that it is the catalyst for the greater good. Such a definition complements what leaders do because their role is as one who works to do what’s best for the whole. In doing such it involves stepping back in order to allow others to step forward. A true leader does not relinquish authority; she shares it, reserving for herself only the biggest and toughest decisions that only she, and she alone, can make.
Thinking more deeply, however, I think leading with grace comes down to something more basic. It is how you view the outside world, with an open mind and heart, or with fear and trepidation. Big chasm, yes, and while open hearted leaders can, and should, feel fear, they do not let it dictate how they interact with others and more importantly how they lead.
What is abundance?
More basically, you can sum up the duality as abundance versus scarcity. Abundance is a way of looking at the world as bountiful. Scarcity is an approach that focuses on lack of resources. Abundance encourages generosity; scarcity leads to hoarding.
Abundance is an embracing as well as bracing philosophy. It embraces the goodness of others, but it also makes demands upon us to share. It challenges our notions of what it means to be human as well as what it means to lead. As a human we must look at others as kindred spirits, not others. As leaders, we must look at employees as contributors.
Leaders who act with grace believe that in a country as rich as resourceful as the United States there must be resources for the most disadvantaged. They applied a vision of abundance to address a problem of scarcity.
While abundance versus scarcity is a dichotomy. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Abundant leadership should not be an excuse for profligacy, speaking of resources. The servant school of leadership teaches us to husband our resources and to be good stewards of what we have, who we are, and what we want to accomplish. Leaders in business cannot give away the store, otherwise there will be no more business, and consequently they will put people on the street without jobs. There must always be prudence in leadership.
Similarly, those who live with a scarcity mindset need to ease up, too. Rigidity to one belief or another leads to a tunnel vision that blocks influences from the outside world. Leaders can never divorce what they do from reality; doing so leads to assumptions that are based more on gut instinct than data. You need both good instincts as well as good command of data to lead effectively.
Applying resources properly
Organizationally there are at least two kinds of resources, capital and human. Capital includes assets; human includes people, of course. Capital resources may never be fully abundant but capital resources can be. That is, while you may not have enough funds to build another factory or store, you do have the right people in the right places to conduct business in ways that enrich stakeholders. Those with an abundance mindset place more emphasis on human capital rather than financial. That does not mean they ignore finances. It is that they believe that people are the true edge in determining organization success, not just finances.
Leaders who lead with abundance are those who look at employees as contributors. They assume the people have the best intentions until proven otherwise. They lead with a spirit of grace in that they view their role as one whose job it is to make things better. They also demand that everyone in the organization do likewise. Values of respect and compassion underscore a commitment to ethics and integrity.
Leading with abundance is to lead with head and heart, a head to ensure proper guidance and a heart to insure people come first.
This post reflects themes explored in my newest book, Grace Under Pressure: Leading Through Change and Crisis by John Baldoni Savio Republic 2023