Bad Leaders Don’t Forgive

By Grant Wattie
President, N2Growth Australia

“The weak can never forgive.

Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”

~Mahatma Ghandi

Today I’m writing about a topic that is rarely talked about in the leadership domain, especially amongst corporate leaders. Now, before you poo-poo the idea, please allow me to explain further. 

In my opinion, forgiveness can’t be ignored, because to do so is to defy a natural law like gravity. Forgiveness is one of the primary foundational ways of being for extraordinary leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Jesus and Ghandi. 

In the movie Spiderman 3, Peter Parker dreams of murderous vengeance against the man who shot and killed his Uncle Ben. When the ooze of unforgiveness attaches itself to him, it changes his Spiderman costume to black. His Aunt May, a model of forgiveness, has very wise, prophetic words for him:  Vengeance is a poison that can “take us over and turn us into something ugly.”

 What Peter eventually discovers is that like his Spiderman suit, vengeance isn’t something that can be easily put on and taken off at will. Knowing he has to be free of it or be lost forever, he has enough insight to seek out a way to be freed by reaching out to God. 

The depiction of Peter’s desperate wrestling with the ooze suit doesn’t promote the notion that forgiveness comes easy. Once he’s finally free there is a ritualistic washing. Though the ooze suit is gone, vengeance still remains and is looking for another victim. 

Like Spiderman, I discovered how anger and unforgiveness can turn from servant to enslaver. A few years ago I was involved in a long, exhaustive dispute, and after some time I realised the personal and financial cost was too high. My anger and bitterness that had begun to consume and control my life began to take on a life of its own. I became highly anxious, I wasn’t able to sleep at night, and my health started to deteriorate. Like Spiderman, I barely resembled the contented and calm person I used to be. Finally, when there seemed to be no way out, I became very tired and extremely frustrated and felt like giving up. 

But somewhere in my desperation I remembered the verse “Settle matters quickly with your adversary … or it will cost you your last penny.” That strong inner voice helped me to let the issue go and forgive, and I immediately felt a huge sense of relief and freedom.

To be clear, forgiveness doesn’t mean accepting of the grievance or that any party is right or wrong. It means letting go of the ego’s need for revenge and to be right in order to make the other party wrong.

My experience of forgiveness involved voluntarily and intentionally replacing negative states of anger, fear and unforgiveness with a more constructive state associated with empathy. I was able to reach forgiveness through the following five steps: 

1.  Recall the hurt:  This was easy for me as I had yet to deny my daily suffering.

2.  Empathize:  I was able to empathise and see the issue from the other party’s viewpoint.

3.  Unselfishly offer the gift of forgiveness:  I remembered that many times I harmed or offended others who later forgave me.

4.  Publicly commit to forgive:  I told my family, my advisors and others that I had let the issue go.

5.  Gentle reminders:  To stop backsliding into anger, I had to constantly remind myself that I had forgiven.

There are many benefits of forgiveness. In his book Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reveals that forgiving someone we’ve held a grudge against reverses the biological reaction. It lowers our blood pressure and heart rate, the levels of stress hormones, and lessens pain and depression. Many people also feel less hurt, and report a substantial drop in physical symptoms of trauma like poor appetite and sleeplessness. 

Forgiveness generates a restored sense of personal power that may pave the way for future reconciliation. 

Thanks much for reading this post. I invite you to share your comments on this topic as it applies to your personal life and workplace.

There Is No Time To Hurry Up And Wait

By Damian D. “Skipper” Pitts
Chair, Organizational Development, N2Growth

Making any progress, process transformation or change across American communities and throughout the global business communities as usual is always hard and usually requires a significant investment of resources – people, finance and effort. So, whenever a leader or an organization adopts any new strategy, technology platform, methodology or approach, that adoption has to be driven by both a need and with leadership clarity.

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Living The Values: A Lesson Learned From A Sales Rally

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

An organization knows that its values are authentic when employees put them into practice.

Recently I attended an annual sales meeting for Moorehead Communications, the owner of The Cellular Connection (TCC), a premium reseller for Verizon. The meeting took the form of a rally with presentations from senior executives as well as a healthy sprinkling of humorous videos. Day One closed with the presentation of the Employee of the Year Award. There were five finalists; each was interviewed on video. Watching what they said echoed the key messages of the CEO, Scott Moorehead, who had spoken earlier in the day.

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Put ‘Moxie’ Into Your Leadership

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

Once upon a time when we admired someone for their grit and determination we said they had moxie. It’s an old-fashioned word popularized in movies of the Thirties and Forties about those who battled the odds. It’s a word that has always stuck with me, and for that reason I decided to focus my newest book on what it means to have guts, gumption and perseverance –moxie!

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Trust Matters Even To The NFL

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

The NFL is sitting pretty.

You bet! After a series of widely publicized domestic assault cases, repeatedly botched attempts to impose discipline, and the performance of a commissioner who has been AWOL for most of the recent crisis, the fans keep flocking to the gates and even more fans are watching on Sunday (as well as Thursday and Monday).

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John Baldoni Interviewed on ESPN

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has not spoken publicly since Sept. 9. Bob Ley talks with ESPN NFL business analyst Andrew Brandt and John Baldoni, Chair of N2Growth’s Leadership Development Practice about the commissioner’s recent lack of presence.

Watch the Interview

What Can Leaders Gain By Acting Like Politicians?

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

“You have to link managing with politics.”

That was the way that Eduardo Campos, who was governor of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, believed that public officials needed to lead. According to his obituary in The Economist, Campos was a technocrat beloved by international bankers but also someone with the common touch who liked to meet and mingle with his constituents. It was on a campaign trip for Brazil’s presidency that he was killed.

 

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Question For Leaders: What’s Your Value?

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

What do you think the biggest problem facing leaders today is?

Sanjog Aul, host of CIO Talk Radio, asked me that question during an off-air discussion and I am glad I was off the air because I couldn’t not think of what to say. Our on-air discussion was focusing on time management and while I think every executive struggles with the perception of not having enough time, I don’t think that biggest problem facing leaders. Good executives figure out how to manage their time.

 

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Stand Your Ground – Even When You’re On TV

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

What do you do when the person sitting across from you fires a question at you that, like a 90 mph curveball spinning toward your face, threatens to knock you flat?

This is a challenge that I as an executive coach have advised many senior executives – as well as rising ones – to handle without looking like a minor leaguer bailing out of the batter’s box. Typically such questions come from a journalist, or maybe in a town hall situation from an aggrieved employee.

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Mary Barra Faces A Question Of Loyalty

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

Is there such a thing as too much loyalty?

That is a question that Mary Barra may be considering after her latest appearance before a Senate committee investigating the faulty ignition switch problem that resulted in 11 deaths. While GM has cleaned house of engineers and lawyers accused of culpability, Michael Millikin, its chief counsel, has remained in place.

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