The following is adapted from The Power of a Graceful Leader.
Do you have an established career as an effective leader yet feel as if something is missing?
Maybe you’ve been taught to forge ahead at all costs, never showing weakness, abiding by the mantra “Results, results, results!”
Are you partitioning off parts of yourself at work? Do you have a strict divide between your personal life and your professional life?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone. I’ve seen these patterns over and over again throughout my practice, within all levels of leadership. The good news is that there is a better way, and together we can find it. It’s called graceful leadership.
Grace is the practical expression of a loving, connected compassion with self and others. It is the ability to see yourself in the other. Grace is the key to sustained happiness, more fulfilling work, and performance that impacts the world.
Learning To Leave My True Self Behind
For the astrologers out there, I’m a Taurus. I’m also a firstborn. For me, the stereotypes hold true. Stubborn, bullheaded, assertive: that’s me.
From an early age, I worked in a man’s world—first in a sheet metal shop and then as a car salesperson. I quickly became a high performer. At the car dealership, I was the number-one salesperson multiple times. I succeeded because I mirrored the men around me. I used their behavior as a calibration tool for what was expected of me in a business environment. I didn’t realize that I was hardwiring harmful lessons into my psyche.
The first such lesson was that there was no time for feelings. I learned to see feelings as a sign of weakness and a waste of time—something that didn’t belong in the workplace. The second lesson was that coworkers shouldn’t build relationships. When I tried to form deeper friendships with several of my male coworkers, my efforts always met a brick wall. The guys were happy to grab some beer and tacos with me; that was as deep as our friendships got. We were friendly, but not friends.
I was taught to not feel, or at least to not express my feelings, and I was taught to suppress the part of me that craved nurturing, deep relationships. Essentially, during these formative experiences, I was taught to stifle my feminine energy. My femininity was reduced to a tool that I deployed externally.
Work Habits Bleed Into Personal Habits
Early in life, I became a single mom, and all the harmful lessons I learned in my work career seeped into my personal life. My kids needed me to be a results-driven and vulnerable mother, and I only really achieved half of that. I succeeded in teaching them to be who they are unapologetically, to be the victors of their lives, and to be accountable.
These were fantastic key competencies for them to learn. Just as important—and notably absent—was education in how to form healthy relationships. While I had been married twice, neither relationship had been a healthy model for my children. Additionally, I was so used to smothering my emotions at work that I did it at home as well, and I was not as emotionally available to my children as I wish I had been.
After a decade of work on myself, I left my job at the time and started working in the human capital space, eventually moving into executive coaching. Over the next fifteen years, I saw the same pattern I’d lived emerge again and again in my clients. Client after client was struggling with the same critical missing piece: grace.
Grace is The Key To Change
As I worked with clients across the spectrum of occupation, gender, personality, and age, I noticed one big thing: graceful leadership is difficult and counterintuitive to almost everyone. However, as I worked with clients to take hold of its tenets, I saw that it had a life-changing effect on everyone willing to stay the course.
Graceful leadership allows you to form a bridge between personal and professional, align yourself to your purpose, and adapt as required for each unique situation. This skill is abundantly powerful in today’s world, which is changing and evolving at rapid speeds.
In the scope of leadership, we currently have the most generations in the workforce than we’ve ever had. Baby Boomers are working alongside Gen Xers and millennials, and Generation Z is on its way in. Although it’s easy to segment and complain about different generations, it’s far more productive to adapt and improve communication to bridge generational gaps. The workforce is changing, and leaders must learn to lead inside more dynamic work environments. Graceful leadership works across generations, across geographic lines, across gender, across whatever divides you can imagine. Graceful leadership is human leadership.
Grace is beauty and strength combined. It has a warrior energy to it. Grace does not equal doormat. Rather, a graceful leader has a power that is accountable. Graceful leadership offers a two-way street of connection: the graceful leader is felt and seen by the people, community, and organization they are leading, and those who experience the graceful leader are similarly left feeling seen and heard.
The Work of Grace
The journey into our gracefulness is a gritty one—bumpy, messy, and one of the most refining experiences we will travel into. The humanness that is us creates a journey that will be revisited and refined over one’s lifetime. Entering into your inner grace is one of the most accountable journeys you will ever take.
Graceful leadership took me years to discover, and still more years to learn and implement into my own life. However, its results were powerful and continue to evolve.
As I began to take hold of the tents of grace, I softened. I grew less intense at work and connected more to the human, relational elements of leadership. I began to nurture my feminine energy (distinct from feminine sexuality) that had been stifled for so long. The harsh judgments I had for myself started to melt away, and in turn, so did my judgments of others. The results were obvious. I felt more satisfied and fulfilled, and so did my work colleagues.
As I have worked with clients on graceful leadership, I have seen equally powerful results in their lives. Graceful leaders find that their whole life (not just your professional life) can become more whole, more connected, and more satisfying.
For more advice on graceful leadership, you can find The Power of a Graceful Leader on Amazon.