Grace…the Heart of Leadership

I can’t even contemplate leadership without thinking about how my Heavenly Father leads me. As a follower of Christ, underpinning everything good I’ve ever learned about leadership (in my home and the marketplace) is a distinctive and often misunderstood concept. The concept of grace!

I love Max Lucado’s word picture, “Grace is God as a heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart – poisoned as it is with pride and pain – and replacing it with his own.”

Max’s definition speaks to the profound nature of grace as well as the condition of the human heart.  Grace is not passive and weak.  It’s active, powerful…radical.  And the human heart is not humble and healthy.  It’s arrogant, rebellious…terminal.

Unfortunately grace is often misunderstood.  I’ve heard it defined as either unmerited favor, or giving somebody something they desperately need but may not deserve.  I gravitate to these explanations because they remind me of how God led me when He found me…and how He leads me still today.

These definitions inform us how to handle the struggles we face daily as leaders.  Leading in our homes and in the marketplace, our kids and employees bombard us with illogical and sometimes stupid actions.  Whether quarreling over inconsequential details, lazily avoiding critical work, or simply doing boneheaded things…we’re leading into a headwind of absurdity.

And if we’re honest about the condition of our own hearts…poisoned with pride and pain…it helps us wade more humbly into the humanity around us.  Acknowledging we do just as many idiotic things as those around us. Leading with humility results in better outcomes.

Let me explain.  In Christian theology, we learn that in exchange for our heart of stone, God gives us a heart of flesh – God’s Holy Spirit now living within us.  We learn further that the fruit of God’s Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

As leaders (whether in our homes or workplaces) we often have the right and are justified in reacting swiftly, harshly and angrily (think the opposite of the fruits of the Spirit) in response to the foolishness swirling around us. However, Grace calls us to something higher. Grace requires us to set aside that which we have the right to do, instead focusing on what’s right for others. This requires we restrain our reflexes…and yield to reason.

Practically speaking, this means we set aside grudges, hold back our anger, freely forgive, and selflessly tend to the needs of others. Ultimately working overtime to help those we lead achieve the absolute best we can envision for them. If you love those you lead, you must do this without tiring…regardless of the sacrifices required.

This is precisely where my faith enters. Left to my own power, my own devices, and my own shortcomings…I wouldn’t do this. Or if I tried, the result would be embarrassingly inadequate.  However, my faith reminds me that there’s something greater than me, working in me, helping me. There’s something prompting me to extend the very grace that saved me…to everyone around me.

Remember Max’s definition of God as a heart surgeon.  The heart God ripped from my chest was judgmental, harsh, condemning, arrogant, and impatient.  The heart I now have is God’s Spirit within me.  When I get out of the Spirit’s way, my kids and my team at work hopefully catch a tiny glimpse of God.  Seen through the fruit in my life.

Sure, I can be patient, kind, gentle and self-controlled without the Holy Spirit. Especially when things are easy. But when things get really messy: when relationships are sabotaged, commitments are disregarded, and trust is violated, my own strength often fails. It’s in these moments grace is so desperately needed.   And the best way I know how to show it…is to confront the brutal truth about who I am without God…and embrace who I am with Him. I’m a better man because of the grace He extended to me when I least deserved it.

I’m thankful for how God led me when at my worst.  He’s shaped me into something better.  Out of thankfulness for the grace He showed me (and continues to show me)…I hope to even dimly reflect this same grace for others to experience.

As broken as I am, this was God’s plan for humanity.  To gracefully pick up and dust off fallen people like me…giving us new hearts and using us as ambassadors of His infinite and amazing grace.

Question: How has God’s amazing grace changed you and the way you lead others? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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