Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism
Here’s a little-used word in business — grace. Except in religious and artistic circles it’s kind of an old-fashioned word.
Sports analysts like to talk about intangibles, which are those miscellaneous factors that influence the outcome of games. Intangibles are always present. But it’s only when the game stats belie the outcome that we look for the intangibles. In sports as in other ventures, intangibles are hard to predict, hard to quantify and hard to describe because they are less obvious. In life, grace is one of those intangibles that can be a difference maker.
“Virtue and genuine graces in themselves speak what no words can utter.” — William Shakespeare
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” — Denis Waitley
Grace Means Being Charming and Refined
The once familiar concept of “ladies and gentlemen” is becoming more and more passé in favor of rude, vulgar and obnoxious public behavior as promoted through television programs like “Married With Children,” “The Simpson’s” and “Roseanne”. These shows are meant to be funny and perhaps they are in a childish sort of way. The blogosphere is another venue where professionalism is being pushed aside by those who seek attention the only way they know — a tantrum of words. The good news is that it is easy to stand out as a professional when the majority has chosen another path.
“I seek constantly to improve my manners and graces, for they are the sugar to which all are attracted.” — Og Mandino (1923-1996)
“We require from buildings, as from men, two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it; which last is itself another form of duty.” — John Ruskin (1819-1900), The Stones of Venice, 1880
“Remember that it is nothing to do your duty, that is demanded of you and is no more meritorious than to wash your hands when they are dirty; the only thing that counts is the love of duty; when love and duty are one, then grace is in you and you will enjoy a happiness which passes all understanding.” — W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), The Painted Veil, 1925
Grace Under Fire
Seeing a leader maintaining composure in the heat of battle (figurative or literal) is both comforting and inspirational. Conversely, who follows a “leader” who “freaks out” in a pressure-packed situation? A leader ceases to be a leader when he panics.
“Always behave like a duck – keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath.” — Jacob Braude
“Grace under Pressure.” — Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Grace Means “Quiet Strength”
Because of the way our culture views leadership, grace also has the ability to camouflage more prominent traits of professionalism such as strength. Tony Dungy, a successful [American] football coach, led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2007 on a model of strength with grace. Mr. Dungy’s approach refutes the familiar coaching image typified by loudness, boasting and anger. The title of his autobiography, “Quiet Strength,” befits a true professional who exemplifies grace both on and off the football field.
“O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.” — William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Measure for Measure, 1604-1605
“Real strength is not just a condition of one’s muscle, but a tenderness in one’s spirit.” — McCallister Dodds
Grace Means Generosity
True generosity, giving without expecting something in return, is another aspect of grace. Professionalism demands a giving heart.
“Riches may enable us to confer favours, but to confer them with propriety and grace requires a something that riches cannot give.” — Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832), Lacon, 1825
“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” — Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
Grace Means Forgiving
Granting and seeking forgiveness may be the hardest parts of grace because they require an incredible measure of humility. We can all take a lesson from children.
“No one forgives with more grace and love than a child.” — Real Live Preacher, Weblog, 02-15-06
By the Grace of God
Everyone is here on Planet Earth at the pleasure of God. Our talents, resources and our very lives are gracious gifts of the creator. God’s presence in our lives, His love and forgiveness too are acts of grace. While it is likely that there are effective leaders who have no belief in God, it is difficult for me to comprehend anyone becoming a complete professional without an attitude of gratitude and actions that reflect the undeserved, amazing grace of God.
“God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.” — Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), in a sermon in 1943
“There but for the grace of God go [I]. — John Bradford, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins
“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.” — Frederick Buechner
© Copyright September 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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