Day 16: Is Forgiveness a Leadership Strategy?

There is one essential ingredient to being a better leader in difficult times. That ingredient is having the courage to forgive. A leader faces many difficult issues head-on.  She does not procrastinate or make excuses. She faces her own faults. She faces the faults and deeds of others, and deals with them—especially when they constitute past baggage.

This means great leaders also know how to—and when to—forgive.  You’ve probably heard it said: “Forgiveness is important because of what it does for you, not so much for the person you are forgiving”.

Forgiveness absolutely does not mean enabling people to hurt us again. Instead, it means not allowing others to have power over us. It means letting things go. Try and think of it this way: “The things someone did to you have already happened, but you are not going to allow them to happen again”. People who can’t forgive are almost always ‘stuck’. Forgiveness allows you to move on and focus on what is good in your life, not on the past.

When it comes to ghosts in our personal pasts, forgiveness is also a lot more strategic than many people realize. The author Rosabeth Moss Kanter pointed out in a 2013 Harvard Business Review article that said: “Anger and blame are unproductive emotions that tie up energy in destroying rather than creating.”

Sometimes the person we need to forgive most is the most difficult person to forgive: Ourselves. Realize that a lot of the stuff you beat yourself up for was dumped on you by other people: Parents, teachers, toxic bosses, abusive exes, and sometimes even those who genuinely loved us but had their own scars, warped viewpoints, and baggage.

Forgiveness is a decision and a choice, not just an emotion. (Sometimes, you have to choose to forgive without a warm fuzzy emotion. That sort of choice is the hardest one you’ll ever make.)

Forgiving ourselves shouldn’t be seen as a weakness but rather as a leadership trait. You’re human and like every other human on the planet, you make mistakes. You have bad days. You say the wrong thing. You make a choice that turns out not to be the best option. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just life, it’s learning! It is part of a growth mindset! Part of our journey from Chaos to Calm is examining our motivation and the needs of our ego so that going forward, we are more conscious and courageous about our leadership choices!  We examine this in my signature program (CALM Power). If you are interested in learning more about CALM Power, you can do so here:

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