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The Opposite of Striving


She cannot lose. For months, this leader has experienced a flow of ease, a state that is spiritual and freeing. She doesn’t need to strive to do anything and yet all the best happens around her; exactly as it should, with ease. Although her hours at work are long, she doesn’t suffer, nor does her family in her absence. The time she spends with them is joyous and fulfilling.

She is in a state of grace.

I see it sometimes; grace bestowed on a leader who is following the path that is true and just. With a deep intention to follow the values that are key to staying on the right path, it all fits together and grace happens in its own time. Impatience, anxiety and striving do not exist for this leader, at this time.

This leader lives by the golden rule, treating each person around her as a unique human. Forgiving their mistakes, thanking them for their hard work, including them, making sure they are always learning and – by the way – paying them well. She doesn’t do these things with the expectation of receiving something back. But she receives a surprise – the flow of grace, and business results that follow grace.

Have you experienced grace in your leadership?

Many of us have experienced it at some point. Although being in a state of grace has religious undertones, I think of it as inclusive of that (if that has meaning for you), yet broader. It is a spiritual experience; in a way that goes beyond our personal religious views and has meaning in the broadest of sense. It is the opposite of striving.

 It happens when we are truly leading:

  • When we balance our need to control with the marvel of letting go
  • When we listen with heart and soul
  • When we do the right thing, no matter the consequences
  • When we are grateful for the gifts bestowed upon us
  • When we lead with integrity, bringing our true selves and our core values to the workplace
  • When we care for ourselves first and then care for others with our best self

I cannot describe what grace is very succinctly. But I know it when I see it and feel it. Perhaps you do too.

How have you experienced grace in your leadership? What are you doing that perpetuates it?


6 Responses to “The Opposite of Striving”

  • I learned from one of my senior colleagues that ‘grace’ is the rarest commodity available in today’s business leadership – and is also most required one, because in leadership positions, we deal with people.

    I define grace as:

    1) The ease in being yourself
    2) Doing your work (in a way that it looks like it is just flowing)
    3) Respecting other individuals and their preferences
    4) Knowing that your work has a deeper meaning.
    5) Remaining integral (congruence between thoughts, words and deeds)

    In my view, playing to your strengths and doing what you really love doing – over a long period results in a graceful conduct. That is the only way to perpetuate gracefulness. My $0.2

  • When you are in a state of grace, you are choosing inspired action. Choosing inspired action means two things:

    (1) Select the one thing before you that you are inspired to do – that thing you really want to do the most.
    (2) When you are not inspired to select any of the options you have before you, then listen to your intuition and have the courage to take a mental, mini-vacation (take a breath, BREATHE, then walk outside, meditate, get a drink of water, or listen to some lovely music).

    When you give yourself this space, new options will become apparent and you may find one that sparkles with appeal and inspiration. Or you may need to extend your mini-vacation.

    We all think we have to just “get it done.” We live under the tyranny of the TO DO LIST. This is a costly illusion.

    When we choose the inspired action over something we think we SHOULD do, synchronicity happens. Work gets done easily and much faster. So much more gets done. Others just happen to do things to assist you. Or things you did not want to do become unnecessary or done by someone else. And most importantly, we enjoy doing whatever it is we choose to do.

    Experiment with this and keep track of the results. I have done this for 6 months and 100% of the time, when I choose inspired action, things turn out so much better for me and for all those around me!

  • Tanmay, Thanks for rounding out the options of things that can define grace!

    Laura, thanks for your compliment.

    Terry, Thanks for stopping over and adding your comments amd helpful suggestions for getting in the “flow”.

  • Mary Jo,

    I actually emailed myself the link to this posting yesterday at work so that I could take the time today to respond as I was so struck by the content.

    It was also a bit serendipitous as I am working on a sermon for tomorrow that discusses James 4:13-17 and that planning and how tenuous and frail we are in that realm when we do it outside of God’s will for us.

    I believe grace in leadership is experienced when you are doing not only “what” God wants you to do but also doing it “how” He wants it done. I think we should be concerned much more about the how than the what in most cases. The reason being that we cannot control the what but we can control the how.

    Covey’s formula was E+R=O. Event + Response = Outcome. We cannot control events but we can (if we choose) control the response which then impacts the outcome.

    I believe this is the fundamental difference between leaders and managers. 90% of what we do every day is managing and that is necessary to make things happen. The challenge is not to become so focused on managing that we do not notice the leadership opportunity when it arises. They are easy to overlook if you are not paying attention. The real challenge is that if you see it and are able to engage a person or team and provide some leadership, that 15 minutes will be more valuable and have a larger impact than the other 7 hours and 45 minutes you spent managing.

    Thanks for posting this and being willing to describe the true issues in leadership. I agree that “grace” is so hard to describe but you will know the grace of leadership when you experience first-hand. In fact, I believe that is what keeps leaders seeking the next opportunity…we all want to experience that feeling as often as we can.

  • Perry, what insight you bring here. There does seem to be a small movement out there for “letting go” and experiencing the response in order to effect the outcome. I wish it were greater. There is such opportunity (for grace) and value in paying attention!

    We all struggle to stay on the path of grace. Thanks for the great work you are doing and your support of your followers to find, and remain, in a state of grace.

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Mary Jo Asmus
Mary Jo
A former executive in a Fortune 100 company, I own and operate a leadership solutions firm called Aspire Collaborative Services. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. I am married, have two daughters, and a dog named Edgar the Leadership Pug who exemplifies the importance of relationships to great leadership.
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