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Leading with Grace & Humility

leadership relational wellbeing

Have you ever eaten humble pie? Just me? False assumptions and quick judgments are often the main course for this unpleasant dessert. The aftertaste far more bitter than sweet. It’s time to put down the fork and pick up something far better.

Years ago, I was confronted with a hard truth. Are you ready for it?

I don’t know everything. Shocker, right?

Despite that reality, I still prefer to believe I have the best solution for everything, My most used expression when I don’t agree with a policy, procedure, or decision, is “well, they didn’t ask me! I’m kidding. Sort of.

Similarly, my Enneagram coach and friend describes Type One as someone who enters a room and immediately looks for the suggestion box. Yes. This is me.

You know what? I’m wrong a lot.

Pie is served fresh and hot every time I stop listening and start judging. It’s amazing how easily I do it. I’ve been humbled time and again by false assumptions and my failure to remember one key thing.

There is always more to the story.

99.9% of the time, we don’t have the inside track on someone else’s life. We don’t know their hardships, the state of their relationships, or the pressure of leading their team or organization. While they are the expert of their life, we are observers who are occasionally invited into or impacted by a piece of their story. But it’s rarely the full picture.

The Alternative to Humble Pie

So, how do we skip the humble pie that inevitably comes when we think we know best? We offer a better dish.

It’s called grace.

How would our relationships change if we led with grace? What if we replaced judgment and assumptions with a softer heart and empathic posture? We need grace now more than ever.

Grace works.

It works in our home, our friendships, and our workplaces. Its simplest definition is unmerited favor or unconditional love. In the Christian tradition, grace starts as an extension of God’s undeserved mercy on us. We did nothing to earn this treatment. He willingly chose to extend it. As such, we in turn, extend grace to one another.

Grace is not limited to Christianity or faith traditions, however. No matter what your religious background, grace belongs everywhere. Unmerited favor and unconditional love are relational gold.

Here are 3 ways we can extend grace to one another at home and work:

  1. Assume positive intent. In my former workplace, we advocated for this regularly. When working across departments to resolve issues or complete a project, it’s easy to place blame when things don’t go well. The instinct is to assume someone else isn’t doing their job or isn’t doing it correctly. Positive intent is a shift in posture. It says to another person or department, “Hey, I know you’re doing your best to help. How can we work through this together?” That simple mindset shift sets up collaboration instead of antagonism. That’s grace.

  2. Acknowledge your knowledge gap. Remind yourself time and time again that what you are seeing and experiencing from another person is only a glimpse of their life. Maybe it’s chapter 30 in a 100 chapter book. You don’t know what came before and you don’t know what’s coming next. What you see today is a sneak peek of how they’ve been shaped and molded by their past, how they’re responding to that today, and how they’re anticipating their future. By acknowledging this limited view, you allow another’s pain, success, crises, and celebrations to live alongside yours. That’s grace.

  3. Admit your humanity. It’s easy to forget we have one thing in common. We’re all human. We have free will to make choices, and thank God for that gift! While we are wired to look out for numero uno, we’re generally more guilty of this sin than we are of setting out to intentionally harm one another. The pain we cause others is usually the byproduct of selfish choices we make every day. When we own the pain we’ve created, we’re quicker to forgive the pain inflicted on us. That’s grace.

Grace isn’t easy. It takes practice, constant reminders, and commitment.

An Extended Practice Season

To avoid the bitterness of humble pie, commit to a season of grace. Expect that you will have plenty of time to practice. While so much is out of your control and countless life-impacting decisions are made each day, one thing is in your control. You can choose grace.

When you’re tempted to lash out, hold your tongue. When your instinct is anger, choose peace. When you want to run, be still. When you disagree, pray for the decision maker.

Making this small shift toward grace with your posture leads to greater peace in the midst of this tumultuous storm.

Extending grace is as much for you as it is for anyone else. You will be changed by it. You will live freer because of it. You will find joy in it.

Grace changes everything.

And it tastes much better than pie.