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Being a Leader of Strength and Humility December 13, 2020

Posted by Danna Beal in 1.
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Mr. Gannon, the well-respected business manager of a radiology practice in my city, was my first boss. I was a young, new marketing director. He was a red-headed, Irish Catholic man with 13 children, a strong character, and a dry wit. When he hired me, he instructed me to use all my best marketing ideas and strategies to market the practice in that area. He assured me he would support me, even if I made a mistake. He inspired me to be innovative, creative, and passionate. With his reassurance, I exceeded my own expectations. I was literally unafraid. Because I knew he always had my back, I soared under his leadership.

One day I made a terrible gaffe. While waiting for a meeting to start with all the radiologists, I pointed out an error on a bill that I thought was a small but humorous mistake. I did not realize that the same computer error had gone out to thousands of patients. After the meeting, Mr. Gannon called me to his office and asked me why I would humiliate him in that way. I was mortified. I was heartbroken. I tried to explain, and he told me to just go back to my office. I spent the next few hours worrying that I had shamed him, lost his faith in me, and that I was a terrible person. At some point, I realized that I was worrying more about what he thought of me than I was about how he felt, which was a humbling breakthrough for me. So now I just waited and took responsibility for my ignorance.

Finally, I looked up and he was standing there. He asked me to go for a walk, a common practice when we discussed marketing ideas. But this time he astonished me when he asked me for forgiveness! He apologized for being an old, prideful man. He added that he knew I had not embarrassed him on purpose. It was at this moment that I realized what an extraordinary man he was. He had the respect of the doctors, the hospitals, and the employees for his vision, his business skills, and his communication abilities. But his strength and humility were at the core of this man. He was a model of the qualities of what I call an enlightened leader. I dedicated my book to him, and though he passed on, I believe he knows that his story has inspired thousands of others.

During critical times in our national and world history, everyone agrees that we need strong leaders. Healthcare is clearly one of the most directly hit industries, with healthcare employees on the front lines, literally risking their lives daily. The surge of those contracting the virus is causing increased pressure on leaders who manage people, procedures, and the constant changes required to deal with this contagious disease. There are no simple answers, which is exactly why we need strong leaders we can trust to move us forward as swiftly and safely as possible. The fatigue and stress felt by people everywhere is intensified in healthcare.

Who You Are as a Leader

Being a leader of strength and humility is the key to guiding your team through troubled waters. An inner core of strength, rooted in love and affinity for others, is essential in these uncertain times. The deep wisdom from an infinite source needed to lead is not accessible to an artificial or weak leader. Doubt and fear are the underpinnings of ego-driven leaders and these leaders flail and collapse in a real crisis.

Humility is a trait that comes from alignment with the deepest, true self. Arrogance and superiority are attempts to mask insecurity and inner emptiness. When you lead from an ego, fear-based position, you impede communication and damage relationships. People who are genuinely supported tend to rise to the occasion, exceed expectations, and extend a caring attitude to patients and other employees. The calm reassurance of leaders rooted in a BE LOVE model of leadership is empowering in turbulent times. Great leaders shine a light on those they lead, in contrast to ego-driven leaders, who seek the spotlight for themselves.

Guidelines for Being a Leader of Strength and Humility

While there is no exact, linear path to great leadership–while working with leaders in a multitude of industries, studying, and writing about leadership–I found the following attributes in authentically empowered leaders:

  1. The ability to look within for fears, weaknesses, insecurities, misguided beliefs, and past mistakes
    When we cannot bear to look at our own perceived inadequacies and “sins”, we project them onto others. Projection and blame are rampant in the workplace. Resistance to seeing our own weaknesses, and the accompanying fear of exposure, can cause us to cover up our insecurities. A leader who owns his/her own shortcomings and failures has no need to blame others. An authentic but humble leader can say, “I’m wrong and I’m sorry.” Strong leaders take responsibility for themselves and their team in good times and bad. Humility is freedom from the need for admiration and external validation.
  2. Compassionate grace for ourselves and others
    Self-forgiveness is the result of giving yourself compassionate grace. With self-forgiveness, we no longer need to hide or fear exposure. We can also shine compassionate grace on others and relieve them of their fears and anxieties of being judged. The words, “I understand,” can be a demonstration of compassionate grace. We do not have to judge others or make enemies. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” I believe Universal Love is the power that sustains all life and heals all misunderstandings.
  3. EmpathyEmpathy is the ability and sensitivity to feel or imagine the emotions someone else is experiencing. Lack of empathy is usually a result of being absorbed in your own image, your own story, or your own limited viewpoint. Being a good communicator requires the awareness of how your words might impact another and consciously trying to be clear and yet, “do no harm.” Being a leader means more than being intelligent, a good strategic thinker, or having a lot of experience in your field. As the Dalai Lama said, “Having a smart brain is not enough. We also need a warm heart.” Leading from the heart is now being validated by many of the best thought leaders in our time.
  4. Trust in the unknown
    We all like to exert control in our lives. It helps us feel safe, secure, and protected. We tend to like the status quo and most people fear the unknown. We currently are living in what appears to be a very formidable unknown. Deep wisdom is recognizing that the unknown can be a gateway for new possibilities and a doorway to faith in the human spirit. As we relinquish our need to control, we can relax, be more mindful, and align with our infinite, inner wisdom. During a crisis, authentically powerful leaders inspire hope, faith, and trust that there will be a better day.

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