Forgiveness as a Leadership Skill

Forgiveness as a Leadership Skill 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

“Can you believe what they did to me?”

“Why do they always have to be difficult?”

“Why are they attacking me?”

It seems to be a common human characteristic to assume that the world revolves around us (at least I hope it’s not just me).  We assume that when something happens that isn’t according to our plan or that causes us some discomfort, that it must have happened with the sole purpose of throwing us off course.

We all probably work or have worked with someone who has a tendency to be difficult.  Maybe this person challenges you on everything you say.  Maybe this person doesn’t listen when you talk.  Maybe they spend their energy finding ways to avoid doing their work which adds to your own workload.  They are difficult.

If you are like me, you may look at that person and assume she is being difficult because she don’t like you and that she is actively trying to sabotage you.  After all, the world revolves around you, right?  And, because you assume she is working actively against you, the natural defensiveness creeps in and you start becoming withdrawn or even hostile towards her.  It’s a natural response, but it’s also self-destructive and it gets in the way of being a leader.

Here’s the truth of the sitation: no one is out to get you.  The difficult colleague is probably just difficult.  He likely doesn’t know any better.  And further, it’s likely that this person is doing the best he knows how and is wondering why you are always so defensive around him.  He isn’t out to get you, not even a little bit.

So, you need to forgive him.  Forgive him for how he behaves.  You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) go tell him that you forgive him.  This isn’t about him, its about you.  Because only once you have forgiven him for these imaginary transgressions against you can you begin to embrace this person for who he is.  Once you embrace him for who he is, you are in a position to help him and to be a better partner.

You know how to do this.  Think about a best friend or a significant other.  He or she does things that probably irritated you at some point in your relationship.  She doesn’t return phone calls right away.  Or maybe he always tries to get involved in “fixing” your issues rather than just listening like you hoped he would.  If the relationship matters enough to you, eventually you realize that this person isn’t doing any of this to annoy you, but rather it’s part of who he/she is.  You may even find that some of these annoying behaviors came from an intention of love and support.  Once you know that, it’s easy to get past and even embrace these behaviors.

By learning how to forgive and recognize most people are doing the best they can and the best they know how, we free ourselves to embrace, love and lead more effectively.  Through letting go, we build better and stronger relationships.

  • Gerardine Killeen

    Interesting post!

    Making room for the styles and preferences of others keeps dialogue open and interactions positive. So I would add acceptance to forgiveness as key to building those better relationships.

  • Tim Gardner

    Nicely said. Time spent worrying about "why they are doing this to me" is generally time that could be spent on far more productive thoughts.
    Each person you view as difficult is an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Do I present myself to anyone in a similar manner? What can I find in this situation that might actually be helpful?
    Thanks for some food for thought…

  • kare anderson

    It helps to read Learned Optimism to lear exactly how to move farther up the continuum of pessimism to optimism where, when bad things happen we don't think it's Personal, Pervasive and/or Permanent
    Yet it is wise to recall that optimistic people tend to see situations through rosy lens, underestimate obstacles while pessimists are more realistic… and tend to complain more… as an optimistic person I go out of my way to collaborate with those who aren't, share the above news with them so we are forewarned that we may often not get along yet it is worth those differences because, together we are more apt to accomplish greater things.

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Jason Lauritsen