The following is adapted from The Power of a Graceful Leader.
As Featured on LinkedIn
In today’s world, effective and intentional leadership is an increasingly difficult task.
The world is becoming faster. We are simultaneously more and less connected than ever before. We can more easily maintain relationships across thousands of miles, yet too often, our new connectedness is an illusion hiding an ever-widening divide. We bury our heads in our phones and are not present with one another in person. We are constantly on the go, looking for our next dopamine hit.
Because of these technological changes, time spent in conscious focus is more important than ever. As leaders, we must take the time to slow down and access our self-awareness, and we must be intentional about how we build and grow our relationships.
I believe the key to this is harnessing the power of grace. Graceful leadership will look different for each individual, but I believe it shows up in three big ways: integration, alignment, and flow.
First, What is Grace?
Grace is the experience of a loving, connected compassion within yourself, and graceful leadership is grace in action.
Graciousness is an experience we have when we awaken to our emotional life and are accountable for how we share that emotional life in our relationships.
Perhaps more so in leadership than in many of the relationships we have the privilege of being part of, grace is crucial. As we lead a diverse collection of people toward a common goal, we will be called upon to do so in many different ways. Some ways will be natural to us, and others a stretch; grace is the bridge between the two.
Integration: Bridging the Internal Divide
The tipping point of becoming a graceful leader is first expressing loving, connected compassion for yourself. When you offer this compassion to yourself, you give yourself the opportunity to become more integrated. Instead of having several different versions of yourself—the you at work, the you at home, the you in your community, and so on—there is only the one unified, connected you.
I’ve worked with countless people who were completely different in their personal and professional lives. I’ve seen many people, especially women, who are powerful leaders at work. Then, at home, they become doormats, abdicating all power and responsibility to their spouse. In the past, I certainly needed better boundaries in my personal life.
I let my former spouse speak to me in ways that I never would’ve tolerated at work. If a peer or even a boss had said some of those things to me, I would’ve chewed them up and spit them up for lunch. This incongruence made me unpredictable, resulting in confusion for me and those around me.
We’re taught that we can be only one thing at a time: compassionate or powerful. It’s a lie. You don’t have to be one or the other. You can be all of you. In fact, you will be infinitely more powerful if you embrace the wholeness of yourself.
Alignment: The One You
Grace with yourself is a meeting of your internal and external landscapes. It is a congruence between what you do and who you are. When you become a graceful leader, you understand your desires and your purpose for being on the planet, and you act in accordance. Aligning yourself to your underlying purpose in this way allows you to achieve synergy of self, and it holds you accountable.
For me, my driving purpose is to create safe places for souls to show up. That purpose is who I am—my internal landscape. It is the filter I lead through. I am only human, and so my external world—what I do—does not always match that internal landscape.
To create the congruency, I am always asking myself, “Am I creating safety? If not, what do I need to do to change that?” By returning to this compass, I can ensure that who I am and what I do are aligned more often than not.
One cannot be graceful without being aligned. This will require an honest inventory of where you are and where you wish to be. The judgment you place around the divide will be explored and over time redefined to create the balance and love that are required internally to uncover your purpose, the one you feel and crave access to. It is only when we dedicate ourselves to our purpose that we can fully unlock the power of the graceful leader.
Flow: Adapting Fluidly
Grace allows you to adapt to any given situation in a fluid, intuitive manner. Graceful leaders are never stuck in one position. They are wholly integrated—mind, body, and soul. They have access to all that they are, at all times.
This means that they can call forth whatever aspects of themselves are needed for a particular situation. In one moment, they can draw on their compassion to comfort a team member who has suffered a personal loss, and in the next, they can lean into their firm confidence to deliver an important presentation. Because of this flow between roles and strengths, graceful leaders have far more tools to employ in every situation.
The epitome of a graceful leader is knowing where to be, when to be there, and how to be there. It’s like having a playbook in football, where you know exactly where you’re supposed to be on the field. Instead of trying to push or pull people along, the graceful leader’s power lies in being in the right position at the right time for the situation. The followers will naturally cluster around wherever the leader is, like a flock of birds flying in a V.
The Journey To Grace
The journey into grace isn’t always easy. It requires vulnerability and work. However, I believe it’s always worth it. I know because I’ve been where you are now.
I operated from a results-at-all-costs mentality, wringing every last drop out of my team. I was successful, and I was miserable. It’s taken me years, but through the tenets of integration, alignment, and flow, I have been able to step into my grace.
I think we often come into the universe with a pain or a healing that we’re supposed to process so that we can then teach others. For me, that’s graceful leadership.
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.”