Cheryl was in a cauldron of emotions. As regional sales rep for a software company, she was a “heavy hitter” who produced outstanding results quarter after quarter. She was a loving wife and mother. In addition, as a person of conviction, Cheryl led the Ethiopian AIDS orphanage ministry at her church. To say her plate was full would be an understatement. And the perfect storm of demands, deadlines, and weariness had her in a category 5 grip.
Therefore while she was multi-tasking at her desk, trying to climb a mountain of work and slow down her heartbeat she couldn’t believe her supervisor, Joanna, unexpectedly showed up and said those dreaded words, “mind if we talk?” Cheryl’s bloodstream was flooded with a new shot of cortisol as she anticipated hearing “there’s a problem we need to talk about.”
Instead she almost broke down and cried when Joanna looked at her, smiled, and said, “Cheryl, you are an amazing person. It’s a privilege having you on the team. I admire how you get things done but don’t violate your standards or ethics. I’ve noticed you have a lot on your docket, so I stopped by to ask how I can be of service. Is there anything I can do to lighten your load during this stressful period?”
That is an example of leadership benediction. Webster’s dictionary defines “benediction” as “a blessing.” Quality leaders, like Joanna, are a benediction to those on their team. Imagine how Cheryl felt when Joanna left her office. Wouldn’t she feel “blessed”?
The world desperately needs leadership benediction. David Gibbons, an amazing leader in California, wrote in his book The Monkey and the Fish: “. . . the world demands that business not only be good for profits but also be good for the planet and good for people.”
We live in a high pressure world. The global recession, major banks folding, GM bankrupt, potential terrorists arrested in places like Denver, then add back-to-school night, laundry piling up, and that dumb leaky toilet the water company is calling about and we feel like Cheryl—overloaded! Into the heat of real life a leadership benediction is a drink of water in a dry, thirsty land.
I encourage you to begin thinking about your leadership in terms of benediction. How can the influence and authority you are entrusted with be stewarded as a blessing to others? Jesus spoke of this leadership perspective when he said, “the greatest among you must be the servant.”
In their book, Resonant Leadership Annie McKee and Richard E. Boyatzis
describe “the sacrifice syndrome.” To be an effective leader a person must make a tangible contribution to the enterprise they lead. This investment comes with a cost of energy, time, and resources. The depleting of resources must be invigorated by intentional renewal or resonant leadership that inspires others will degenerate into dissonant leadership that irritates folks. Boyatzis and McKee go on to describe studies that show renewal happens through “mindfulness, hope, and compassion.”
Leadership benediction takes a proactive stance, like Joanna’s behavior, in renewing their followers through the blessings of “mindfulness, hope, and compassion.” Mindfulness pays attention to other people’s reality, hope is renewed when tangible, practical solutions are brought to the table, and compassion rolls up its sleeves sincerely offering, “How can I help you?”
I love Saint Teresa of Avila’s quote, it expresses the heart of leadership benediction:
Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.”
That nails leadership benediction. Leadership is a trust, a calling, a service that depends on wise decisions and timely action resulting in added value. Jim Collin’s research backs up that claim. Leadership benediction brings great value to the table.
Let’s make this practical. How can you exercise leadership benediction at home, at work, at church, in the neighborhood? How can you steward your energy, time, roles, and resources for 360 degree blessing to the Board, shareholders, fellow managers, employees, spouse, children, and the global village? How will your day change if in every situation you reflected on “how can I be a blessing”?
I encourage you to think in terms of benediction when analyzing your leadership responsibilities. Selfish leaders think in terms of perks and benefits while leadership benediction brings humble blessings to others. Which do you believe is better leadership?