The following is adapted from The Power of a Graceful Leader.
At first glance, the idea of graceful leadership appears simple.
Grace is the experience of a loving, connected compassion within yourself. Graceful leadership is the outward expression of this quality in your workplace or place of authority.
However, when you take a deeper look at what this could mean for you, the path to graceful leadership can start to get a little muddy. Thankfully, along my journey as a leader of self and others and through my work as an executive coach to over a thousand amazing leaders, six tenets of graceful leadership have emerged.
They include leading with and through integrating, evolving, transparency, connecting, co-creating, and being compassionately powerful. Each of the six tenets of graceful leadership offers real, tangible benefits.
1. Integrating: Mind, Body, and Soul
Integrating your mind, body, and soul is the first step in bringing you closer to a single, unified you. Many of us develop more strongly in one area or another as we grow into young adults. For me it was my mind and intellect. What is it for you? Do you live in your body, head, or heart? When you’re only paying attention to one or two of these aspects of yourself—mind, soul, or body—you will have an incomplete picture of youness. All three are needed to live a holistic version of yourself.
By integrating your mind, body, and soul, you can break down the artificial walls you’ve built between the different versions of you. Partitioning yourself cuts you off from your full power. By removing these barriers, you will have access to all your myriad strengths.
2. Evolving: Alignment of Soul and Self
Are you constantly looking to know yourself better? Do you let yourself grow? A leader strong in the evolving tenet is relentless in the pursuit of understanding and aligning self to purpose. They are a constant learner who is gentle in all pursuits, enlisting a lens of curiosity with a focus on integration. In evolving, you stretch, test, and refine your sense of self, aligning it to your soul. In the process of aligning soul and self, you grow and become more firmly cemented in your as a graceful leader.
Evolving your alignment of soul and self will bring you in alignment with your purpose. Purpose gives us meaning and fulfillment. If you want lasting happiness, purpose is the key.
3. Transparency: Self and Others
Transparency is about showing up to the world as yourself, no masks. It’s important to achieve transparency with others and also within yourself. A leader with mastery of transparency demonstrates authenticity in their behavior and communication (they walk their talk). They are an active listener and open, clear, and consistent with their message and its consequences. They also don’t base sense of self in labels or others’ perceptions— they allow the people that follow them to see their heart, and they lead from this consciousness.
Transparency is the key to clear communication, which is the foundation of any healthy relationship, whether it be a personal or work relationship. When you have transparency with self and others, you eliminate confusion. You know who you are, and so do the people around you.
4. Connecting: Self and Universe
In the connecting tenet, you expand with grace beyond yourself and into the larger world. A leader proficient in the connecting tenet has moved from the “I” construct of being to a “we” construct (the “we” is universal, not just humanity). They have discovered and developed an inner guidance system that is connected to the collective. They also demonstrate empathy and gratitude.
When you are connected with yourself and others, you transcend from an “I” perspective to a “we” perspective. Whether you are aware of it or not, we are all connected. If you choose to remain trapped in an “I” perspective, you will still have an impact on the world around you; however, you will have little control over what that impact is. By tapping into this connection, you can ensure that your impact on the world is intentional, creative, and impactful.
5. Co-creating: Innovative
In co-creating, you learn to deploy other people’s talents and resources instead of relying only on yourself. A leader who co-creates seeks new ways of solving problems that are nontraditional to the way their profession/organization does. They surround themselves with talent diﬀerent from theirs and people competent in areas they are not. They also demonstrate the ability to both lead and follow, all while maintaining the leadership role.
Becoming a co-creator lets you find innovative solutions. As individuals, we are limited. Together, we can accomplish incredible feats. Think of any of humankind’s greatest achievements—the eradication of deadly diseases, putting a man on the moon, the creation of the internet. A team of people will always be more powerful than a single individual, and co-creation is not limited to people alone. It is also available with nature.
6. Compassionately Powerful: In All Things
In being compassionately powerful, the graceful leader is effective and achieves results without sacrificing people. A compassionately powerful leader inﬂuences through an open heart and clear agenda, blending stillness and action. They understand and own the impact and consequences of their behavior to self/organization/world. They also create room for flow while maintaining structure.
In embracing compassionate power, you become a true leader, not an enforcer. Pushing and pulling people will only get you so far. Your ability to remove duality and hold compassion and power equally will lead to a team, outcomes, and a life you will love.
The Tenets Will Take Time
The journey into and with the tenets of a graceful leader is one of ebbs and flows. It is not a check-the-box, get-the-T-shirt activity. It is dynamic and will recede and expand with you in your own personal evolution as a leader.
For those of us who like the satisfaction of completing something, this can be frustrating when first engaging. However, once you have grasped the concepts and played with them for a while, the old sense of needing to accomplish something will diminish and be replaced with a new awareness and a new way of being.
For more advice on graceful leadership, you can find The Power of a Graceful Leader on Amazon.
Alexsys Thompson offers this body of work as a testament to her own leadership journey, as well as the journey of hundreds of other leaders. For Alexsys, the tipping point came when she established her gratitude practice and spent a decade refining it. Today, developing a gratitude practice is a key element of her work as a board-certified executive coach. Alexsys also serves as adjunct staff for The Center for Creative Leadership and is a member of the Forbes Coaching Council. She authored The Trybal Gratitude Journals, curated a collection of short stories called Gratitude 540, and is building a retreat center in Vermont that will be a “safe space for souls to show up.”