8 Traits of Grace Filled Leadership

January 7, 2013

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My first leadership experience was as an 11-year-old in Boy Scouts. As a newly christened “Assistant Patrol Leader”, I led as I had seen others leading. Experience said the way in which you led other pre-teen peers was through yelling and screaming, using all of your newly learned expletives until finally the group accomplished the task. Unfortunately my model came through watching the 12 and 13-year-old leaders!

Some leaders never outgrow this style.

They refine it, dropping the cursing, but maintaining the control and the “no questions asked” style. Hollywood promotes this style with military drill sergeants and gruff police captains.

As we grow in our leadership, we realize the limits of this style’s effectiveness. We come to understand a need to value people, not absolute obedience.

Drill sergeant discipline

Here are 8 traits of grace filled leadership:

  1. Emphasis on principles rather than rules.
    Rules modify behavior, principles change hearts. Anyone can adjust their lifestyle for a season or adhere to a structure. Lives are truly changed through transformation rather than conformity. When we focus on principles, it teaches people wisdom which works in a multitude of situations.

  2. Valuing people. It is easy to view people as a means to success in our teams. If our people feel cared for and valued for who they are, not merely what they do; we will have their hearts and their loyalty. This involves listening to our people and finding ways to serve them; all motivated by a desire to see them succeed.

  3. Push towards excellence, leaving room for failure. As gracious leaders, we know our own shortcomings and failures. This gives us the ability to push people towards success while also allowing them to make mistakes. After all, people allowed us to learn some of our greatest lessons through failure. No one wants to work for a leader who demands perfection.

  4. Allows different opinions while promoting commonalities. One of the leading traits of controlling leaders is insecurity. Insecure leaders hurt people. Gracious leaders recognize the need to surround themselves with other strong leaders, valuing differing strengths and ideas.

  5. Confronts personally. Gracious leadership is not a free for all with no confrontation. Rather, the confrontation occurs in a manner which values the team member. You want to avoid general announcements or side comments to a group. Value people enough to say the hard things to them face to face.

  6. Allows people to experience the consequences of their actions. – Another misconception of grace is “sloppy agape”. True grace realizes lessons are often learned through experiencing the result of a bad decision and learning from it. Grace does not remove consequences or attempt to protect people from their bad decisions. Titus 2:12 tells us, “grace trains…”

  7. Believes the best. We must trust our people; doing away with judgment, critical spirits, and suspicious attitudes. This value allows us to truly release people to do the job, avoiding the dreaded dirty delegation or micro-management.

  8. Willing to be abused. Grace filled leaders often get accused of being taken advantage of. People naturally look for loopholes or ways to work the system. But, this happens in rule-based leadership as well. The potential for abuse does not disqualify the leadership style. A few will work the system, but more will flourish and thrive under this style of leadership.

The greatest example of a grace filled leader is Jesus himself. Read through the list again and you will see Jesus modeled every one of these traits.

I have run an international Bible school for many years. Our students study all 66 books of the Bible in nine months. Aside from Biblical revelation, one of the greatest takeaways students refer to is observing a new style of leadership. It matches up with what they are learning from the Scripture, bringing healing from leadership abuse in the past.

Grace filled leadership does not make perfect people, but we know this.

In a world filled with heroes falling every week, we need better examples of leadership. People who are concerned with changing hearts rather than merely modifying behavior or accomplishing tasks.

What are other traits of gracious leadership you would add to this list?

How have you been impacted by examples of this kind of leadership?

Photo By: The U.S. Army

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God