This at first , may appear to be an unusual topic for a business leader. However, after I share my views, you may see forgiveness as one of the strongest and most over-looked qualities of a leader.
The topic in church last week was on forgiveness. As the sermon progressed, it became apparent the lesson was about learning to let things go. Suddenly, I felt my daughter's elbow, and then that look of, "Oh, Mom!" This teaching struck us both as another important one. Never, until that point, had I really thought about how much negative energy goes into holding resentment, bitterness, and feelings of retaliation.That's a lot of wasted energy!
Energy that, if harnessed, could be turned into positive energy and used for good . No one ever said it was easy. It takes strong leaders to understand the greater good and to see the importance of forgiving.
Look back over time at some of these great individuals: Abraham Lincoln once said, " The man who can't make a mistake can't make anything." His philosophy of the value of forgiveness spurred an entire nation, and he made it a priority to create a compassionate nation. One illustration of how he embraced forgiveness is seen in the story of Lincoln's first encounter with Edward Stanton. In a public setting among their peers, Attorney Lincoln was publicly insulted and humiliated by Attorney Stanton. Although Lincoln surely felt the shaming, he chose to not retaliate, but instead to study Stanton's court performance. As a result, he was inspired to develop the art of effective and persuasive writing. Years later, President Lincoln appointed Stanton as his Secretary of War, which most certainly was an instrumental choice. It was through actions such as these that Lincoln's practice of quietly forgiving and embracing differences helped heal a nation which he led in moving past its mistakes and egregious wrongs.
One of the most profound examples in history of the power of forgiveness, when contrasted against bitterness and revenge, is the differences in the outcomes is Nelson Mandela in South Africa in comparison to those of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Mandela, after being unjustly imprisoned for 27 years, was able to put aside his feelings and embrace a greater good, thus becoming the President of South Africa. In contrast, in Zimbabwe, Mugabe perpetuated feelings of resentment and bitterness, and there, revenge became the focus. South Africa grew and positively changed whereas, in early 2000s the people of Zimbabwe experienced famine, economic disaster, and disapproval from the West, because of President Mugabe's violence toward land-owners. His lack of a forgiving nature created upheaval in Zimbabwe and eventually led to the demise of his leadership, when his resignation was called for in 2017.
Transformational leaders understand that holding grudges is a form of arrested development, holding them back. Great leaders understand the power of forgiveness and work to create environments where people are not afraid to think beyond their four walls and can challenge themselves to exceed without the fear of making mistakes.
Think about times when you, as a leader, have benefited from the forgiveness of others, or from your forgiveness of others. Although we don't forgive for our own gain, it usually turns out to be an unexpected benefit to us when we practice having a loving and forgiving nature.
Work hard, be productive, and above all else stay positive.
Peggy White, Executive Director