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"Grace-Filled" Leadership Isn't What You Think It Is

"Grace, she takes the blame, she covers the shame, removes the stain." — U2

I do a lot of work in churches and faith-based NPOs. In both contexts, a lot of the faith leaders I work with struggle with the issue of grace, particularly as it applies to the people they lead—both paid staff and volunteers.

Not surprisingly, they all want to be "grace-filled" leaders. Of course! It's a high value for any leader in a church or faith-based organization. But what does it mean to be a grace-filled leader—really? How do you extend grace to the people on your staff and still hold them to a high standard of performance in their jobs? Doesn't grace mean you just keep taking it when people perform poorly or behave badly? You "extend grace," right? You hope they'll be different next time.

Let me offer another perspective.

Grace is not leniency.

Grace is power—Divine power—to become the whole person God created you to be (Acts 4:33; 2 Corinthians 12:9). To receive grace means to be empowered. Grace gives us power to choose differently. Power to change. Power to become something more than we have been. Power to actually be the wholehearted person God dreamed of from the beginning.

Yes, grace includes compassionate acceptance of where we are today. No judgment. No condemnation. This is essential to grace. Without this, no real change can happen.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl Rogers

But grace is also the courageous, tenacious belief in the best version of who God created you to be. It is the refusal to let those you lead live beneath the vision of God's highest dream for their lives. It is taking a stand for another person's God-inspired destiny.

Grace is a kind of calling forth.

To lead from grace does not mean giving someone a "pass." It means holding them to the highest vision of who they are in Christ in an atmosphere of full, compassionate acceptance of who they are right now.

Leading from grace is a bold, radical act. It takes practice. It takes courage.

And it is the power that changes the world.

What does it mean for you to "lead from grace"? How are you leading from grace with your people right now? How might you do it even more boldly?

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