How Leaders Lead with Grace

business-people-working-on-projectGrace is the catalyst for the greater good.

On a personal level, as my experience shows, it means we view grace as a gift given freely to us and which we can opportunity to share with others to make things better. As such grace is an aspect that orients us to a life of virtue.

But what does it mean to lead with grace? Using grace as an acronym, consider:

Generosity is the spirit of openness and sharing. When leader give of themselves, others feel it. Generosity is generative. The more you give the more others can the opportunity to respond in kind.

Respect is the ability to assume the best intentions in others. Invite divergent views. Be inclusive. It is the willingness to show trust and expect it in return.

Action is the power to mobilize. A leader’s job is to pull people together for common cause. To make things happen.

Compassion is the ability to care and to love. You care about how people are doing at work and outside of it.

Energy is the drive that team to have in order to succeed. It falls to the leader to pull as well as push people forward in order to get the job done.

Each of these attributes harmonize with the concept of grace as a whole in order to orient the leader toward service. In keeping with the notion of servant leadership, it falls to the person in charge to put the needs of the whole ahead of the wants of the one.

Leadership, therefore, is not about an individual; it is about the collective. Grace then becomes the grease as well as the glue to make that happen. Grace is the grease because it enables people to smooth over the rough patches. Grace is the glue that holds us together in common cause.

Grace facilitates connectedness so necessary between leader and follower. Grace reveals character, the ability to act for what’s good, rather than what’s expedient. Grace provides strength to a leader to make the right call as well as the humility to know when it is time to ask for help. When followers sense the humanity of their leader it facilitates a reciprocal connection.

While we describe grace as facilitative let’s not forget that people with grace have the inner strength necessary to stand up for what they believe, especially in times of adversity. Grace complements courage because it is rooted in respect for others. Courage is the push-back to fear; grace may be the reason for the need to push back. When a leader senses injustice, the instinct is to do something to ameliorate the situation. That sentiment fueled by a concern for others emerges from grace.

Work is hard and that’s why we need the support of our colleagues. And so when we can find ways to connect with them more readily and more eagerly we will create a more harmonious workplace.

In my experience, here are three things leaders can do to make thing better for others at work:

Make time for others. There is never enough of it, or so it seems. So when a colleague puts aside what he or she is working on to help someone else we remember it. Good colleagues are those who view time as much for others as it is for themselves.

Invest yourself in attention. Our era is one of constant interruption. A colleague who puts down a smart device to look you in the eye, or listen to what you have to say, is one worth weight in gold. 

Celebrate the joy of work. Work is hard and it can be a grind. Those who take time out to enjoy the process of what they do and why do it are colleagues we cherish. They make time pass and the process enjoyable.

Sometimes the best way to be a colleague is to think of how you would like to be remembered. Colleagues will comment on your skills, but more likely they will remember what you did for them.

And here’s something else, someone might do the same for you.

Grace, as some believe, is divine, but people, even the best of us, are never so. Each of us is fallible. With grace we can strive to do better. In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius opines, “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” Grace can help leaders move from the discussion of what to do to what’s best to do for the good of all. 

This post reflects themes explored in my newest book, GRACE: A Leader’s Guide for a Better Us. For more details, plus video visit

John Baldoni

John Baldoni

John Baldoni is a globally recognized executive coach and leadership educator. ranked John a Top 50 Leadership Expert and Top 100 leadership speaker. Trust Across America awarded John its Lifetime Achievement award for Trust and Global Gurus ranked him No. 9 on its list of Top 30 leadership experts. John is the author of 14 books, including GRACE: A Leader’s Guide to a Better Us

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