One of our goals as leaders is to create a culture that encourages individual development while fostering a sense of community. We seek to construct a positive environment and coach our teams in areas of communication, conflict resolution, and time management. We demonstrate commitment and engagement, and even mentor future leaders. We work hard as we invest in others.
However, sometimes we get caught up in negativity. Often, that negativity stems from a feeling of frustration or anger. We were wronged in some way. Sometimes it’s a larger wrong, sometimes it’s not; regardless, we hold onto the resentment. We remove people from our lives, even if they are still very present in our workplaces. We refuse to engage. We remain professional, but do not allow any personal interactions.
The danger is that we are learning the wrong lessons. We talk about learning how people cannot be trusted, or understanding office politics and how to play the game. We’re not talking about how to forgive someone who has hurt us or to extend grace when someone is having a bad day. We don’t talk about how to move past the frustration into a place of peace.
When we forgive, we free ourselves of the bondage of anger. We let people know that we will not hold our grudge against them, bring it up repeatedly, or talk about the situation with others any longer. We agree to move forward. This can be hard, harder still if the other person doesn’t admit wrong or feel the need to be forgiven. Forgive anyway. We’re not excusing another person’s behavior; we are, however, preventing their behavior from negatively impacting us. Forgiving requires strength. It focuses on repairing relationships.
As leaders we are investing in people. People who make mistakes. People who hurt each other. People who do or say things that are insensitive or unkind. People who make selfish choices in their effort to elevate themselves. People. Our primary function as leaders is to motivate and inspire people; however, we cannot be free to create vision, to motivate others, to inspire them to engage, to become better, when we are mired in negative emotions.
How do we forgive? First, we have to admit we are angry and understand the root cause. Sometimes the frustrations are unrecognized expectations. Sometimes the situation has triggered a situation that caused us pain from our past. Regardless, we have to recognize our own emotions and consider how they may be constraining us. Next, we have to be willing to let it go. This often requires we speak with the other party. Sometimes they don’t know we were holding onto hurt, or why; but they most likely experienced the sting of impersonal contact with us. Finally, we have to accept that the other party may not accept our forgiveness, or may not reciprocate the feeling. It doesn’t matter. We cannot lead without freeing ourselves from the negativity of anger, hurt, frustration, or unmet expectations.
The leadership lesson? When we forgive, we give ourselves permission to inspire others; and we give others permission to be their best selves. We must forgive in order to flourish – together.