It has always been my contention that the best leaders always remember that nothing happens without other people. Sometimes it is hard to remember that the leaders must also take into account that they, too, are people. And at times it might be difficult for those who look up to leaders to remember that. I am taking a moment, now, to walk a bit away from the purely professional leadership topics and try to tackle a leadership challenge that I have seen met with great grace on a personal and community level.
In the past month I have had the opportunity to truly reflect on a number of weighty and sometimes truly baffling questions.
The death of a dear friend from a heart attack asked the question “Did Alan know how very much he was loved and cherished?” to be followed with the question “How can I prevent the same from happening to me (we were not far apart in age) and how can I help those I love mitigate the risk from the same kind of event?”
The death, only weeks later, of a dear friend from murder asked the question “How do I believe in my fellow man and keep faith that there will be justice in the face of this?” and further commented “I know Gordon knew he was loved by his god, but did he know how deeply and widely he was loved by his fellow man?”
What these two very dear men held in common, aside from common friends, was that they each embodied, demonstrated even, on a daily basis, the strength of their convictions. And while Alan would happily and enthusiastically embark on a raucous and long-as-you-like discussion/argument on almost anything he would never expect you to back down on your beliefs simply because of his own. And Gordon, while never having a doubt about his faith or the love of his god, lived the teachings of his beliefs and daily demonstrated a kindness and outreached hand of compassion that was based in the core of who he was – not who he felt you should be.
This is quiet grace. It is the grace of leading and teaching by example rather than exhortation.
The example of keen intelligence applied with joy. The example of the nimble articulation of an argument, of supporting conclusions with verve and the sheer enjoyment of expanding knowledge for all involved. The example that arguments don’t have to be fights and could often be followed by a congenial lunch together filled with friendly talk and laughter.
The example of an abiding belief that, somehow, it will all come out well – that there was nothing that you couldn’t, that he would help you to in any way he could, overcome and more than survive – triumph and grow because of the challenge. The example that joy, exhibited with a roar of a laugh that is legendary, was always one of the greatest and most healing blessings – something to be shared with anyone, with everyone.
You may ask what this has to do with leadership. Leadership is not a job, a title or a position. It is about caring enough to be willing to change circumstances, people and situations – to care and begin changing the world. It is a responsibility and a privilege. Your leadership may be strongest when you are demonstrating quiet grace – the grace of living your beliefs and ethics. It is not glamorous. It does not make headlines. Quiet does not mean weak, however, and quiet can be, can have a strength that is the kind of grace that is badly needed in our world.
And, so in honor of my dear and dearly missed friends Alan and Gordon I ask you to reflect on this question:
“How can I better lead my life to be an example of the best of what I believe and hold most true?”
Just as I suspect neither of these two men knew the extent of their impact on the people they touched you may never know who has been touched by your example, by your treatment of others, by how you live your beliefs.