As a guest presenter to our SCLA Executive Think Tank group back in mid-November, Antonio "Tony" Castillo, the founder and managing partner of Vigilant Training Group LLC, led a fantastic discussion about dealing with the power of leadership gracefully.
Now, you may be wondering what the idea of grace has to do with being an effective leader. I have to be honest—I had not previously heard of the concept myself! But, as I will explain, Tony uses this word not only as an expression of trust-building among teams by talented and innovative leaders but also as an acronym: G.R.A.C.E.
Additionally, Tony shows how great communication and collaboration are bound together with grace. Read on to discover why he believes that grace—while not a term that's frequently associated with business leadership—is actually what leadership is all about. "It's a quality," he stated, "that when possessed by a leader, has the ability to transform and inspire everyone around them."
[Related Content: my previous article, Collaboration: The Secret that Keeps Supply Chains Running Efficiently. Make sure to give it a read!]
But let's back up for a moment and think about the reason we need this "softer skill" of leading with grace in the first place. It's something that comes with every leadership position, whether we're comfortable with the idea or not: power.
What is Power?
As Tony explained, power is synonymous with the title of "leader." It's the act of leading people within an organization and the function that allows someone to lead. And the old adage is correct—with great power comes great responsibility.
If we are not careful with our power, it will quickly create conflict. This causes those on our teams to be less creative and resist collaboration because they do not feel trusted or that their ideas and contributions have value.
Tony illustrated his point with the example of a 4th generation CEO of a mid-size business who does not use his power effectively. This individual discards and discredits the ideas that his c-suite colleagues bring to him, and morale is low as a result.
So, how could this CEO turn things around? The answer is to start with creating a culture of effective communication, which builds trust. Once the trust is there, it will be maintained with this concept of grace.
Why Trust is So Important
Perhaps it goes without saying, but as Tony asserted, "Trust is the foundation of any relationship. If we don't have trust, it's tough to do anything. Without it, nothing can be built."
I wholeheartedly align with this assertion and have talked about how trust within our industry is transformational—not just between leaders and teams within individual organizations, but between organizations and all of the people they associate with, from customers to collaborators.
In any case, trust is built when everyone is speaking the same language and moving in the same direction toward a common goal. And that comes from graceful leadership.
How to Lead with Grace
Leading with grace essentially means managing a team while maintaining a sense of respect and care for one's colleagues. This type of leader is not only focused on achieving their goals but also on the well-being of their team and the overall success of their organization.
Being successful in leading with grace is being able to take a holistic approach, looking at the big picture, and understanding the interconnectedness of all parts of the system. These types of leaders recognize the importance of each individual and how their actions and decisions affect the whole.
Sounds simple enough, right?
The biggest issue, of course, is that today's supply chain leaders are so incredibly busy, and they may not feel they have the bandwidth to commit to and cultivate such a mindful leadership style.
Tony contends that it can be coached in leaders who are open to improving communication and building more trust in their organizations. And it starts with remembering a simple acronym using the letters that spell out grace:
In the context of leadership, generosity means a spirit of openness and sharing. Tony noted, "When leaders give of themselves, others feel it. Generosity is generative. The more you give, the more others are willing to give in response."
Treating others respectfully means having the ability to assume the best intentions in others, to invite divergent views, and to be inclusive.
This is something most of us in the supply chain world are naturally good at—the power to mobilize. And a leader who leads with grace can set a strong example for others to follow. They understand that their words and behavior reflect on the organization and that they are responsible for setting the tone of the workplace through their actions. Tony asserted, "A leader's job is to pull people together for a common cause—to make things happen."
Compassion, or the ability to care and love, might be a little bit more difficult for leaders to espouse in the workplace since this is probably the "softest" skill on the list. However, being compassionate can be equated with being patient yet direct and aiming to understand the personal struggles that their employees may be experiencing. It's really just about being human. Tony advised, "Care about how people are doing their work; help them get better at it so that everyone is succeeding as we go forward. It's about profitability—it's about money. We know that. (But ask yourself the question of) how do we all get there in harmony so that all of us can succeed?"
This is tied closely to "action"—the drive that teams need to succeed. Again, supply chain leaders tend to be energetic and ready to move quickly to get results. We are naturally gifted in this area!
Can You Say That You Lead with Grace?
To sum up, we can say that leading with grace means handling difficult situations with poise and composure. It means guiding others with kindness and fairness, even in challenging circumstances.
To lead with grace requires understanding and empathy towards others and inspiring and motivating people to work towards a common goal. It also involves being able to admit mistakes and take responsibility for one's actions.
Ultimately, leading with grace means being a strong and effective leader who can bring out the best in others. And it will help to keep morale strong and build trust within your organization.
If you're committed to leading in this way as a supply chain leader, I would love to hear about your experiences. Or, on the flip side, if you've ever reported to a leader who was not skilled at engaging their people, what were the qualities that you feel were red flags? Grace: A Key Aspect of Leadership You May Not Have Considered