Leadership Is Grace
He spits half eaten sunflower seeds from his mouth as he removes his hat and wipes the sweat from his forehead. He calls out to the shortstop to move in a couple of feet and reminds the third base player that we have two outs and to get the easy out at first base.
He sits on a bucket of softballs just outside of our dugout and is in command of the game. He seems satisfied with the positioning of our players and watches intently as the pitcher flings a ball across the plate. He shifts his gaze out to the field as he listens to our girls, the 12U Red Devils softball team, chant at the batter, in attempt to distract and frustrate her.
“Girls!” He yells out, “Cheer for your pitcher, don’t harass the batter. We don’t do that!” He shoves a handful of sunflower seeds back in his mouth and begins to chew on them as he focuses his eyes back on his pitcher. I smile at his reaction to our girls. He chose encouragement over discouragement. He’s teaching the girls to support each other, not frustrate the batter from the opposing team.
A few innings later, the home umpire makes a horrible call. I can’t remember the play, I can only remember the feeling of anger and frustration at the call, especially since it was a close game. I leap off the bench ready to verbally abuse the umpire. Mike, the head coach of our team, raises his hand towards me and looks me in the eyes. He doesn’t say anything, but I get his message and bite my tongue and sit back on the bench, fuming at the bad call.
I approach Coach Mike, after the game, and inquire about the missed call. “That was a horrible call, Mike. Why didn’t we challenge it?”
Mike smiles, “It was a bad call, you’re right.” He bends down and collects the catcher’s gear and carefully places the gear into a large, well-used, equipment bag. “The umpire knew it was a bad call,” Mike continues, “but it wasn’t worth me embarrassing him over it.”
“Sure, but it put us in a bad spot.” I respond.
“Yes, but he’s doing his best and is not going to get them all right.” He pats me on the shoulder and exits the dugout so he can encourage and congratulate our girls on a hard fought game. His response to me was simple, but wise. I ponder his reaction to our girls when they taunted the batter and his response to a bad call made during the game. It forces me to check my attitude and to think about leadership and influence.
Our girls respect Mike. Other coaches and league officials respect him too. He coaches our girls with a smile, and allows other parents, like myself, to help out during games. I always feel good when I interact with Mike. It’s a feeling I often experience when I interact with leaders that are full of grace.
Grace is the most powerful tool of influence. I’m always surprised by its power when I experience it and feel joy and satisfaction when I encounter a gracious leader, like Mike. It’s such a simple concept that I rarely find in leaders, but when I do, I know that I’m with a person of great influence, for grace attracts people and the best leaders are dripping with it.
So, what is grace? Grace is honor. It’s when a person respects another person’s right to exist. It’s when a person yields to another for the sake of the relationship. Grace does not come from a position of weakness, but from a position of strength, for a person must be secure with himself before he can show grace towards another.
A person full of grace is not quick to judge, does not win at all costs, or destroys another so he can advance his agenda. No, a person of grace considers others and takes stock in the relationship as he navigates a difficult situation. A graceful leader does not burn bridges and tear others down, instead the leader encourages and uplifts those around him to perform at a high level.
You know when you encounter grace, because it motivates you to work hard and solve problems. Coach Mike gave me that gift. His actions and leadership challenged me to consider my own actions during games and inspired me to be a better version of myself. That is the beauty of grace. It inspires the world and is a beautiful attribute that all leaders should embrace.
I challenge you to lead with grace and inspire those around you by your words, actions, and attitude. Grace is a precious gift that you can give someone today. Give it freely and with abundance and observe how it transforms those around you. Don’t allow the power of grace to slip away, but embrace it and bless someone with your graceful spirit today!