Aim Higher: Leading with Grace, with John Baldoni

Lead with Grace

It’s surprising when one simple sentence can sum up so many of today’s challenges for aspiring leaders. But my guest on this week’s “Aim Higher” did just that. During our chat, John Baldoni — leadership educator, executive coach, and author of many excellent books — said to me, “Skip, we’ve been raised in a tradition of hoarding power.”

That’s not just true, but deeply insightful. We’ve come to think of power as a “zero-sum game.” Something that for me to get, I need to take away from you. This leads to so many bad behaviors. I see it all the time when I mentor others. They exhibit symptoms such as micromanagement, taking credit for others’ work, the inability to see the big picture, or even a failure to do succession planning.


Listen to Leading with Grace on Aim Higher here.


In some cases, you may not even think of what you’re doing as “power hoarding.” You may consider yourself a generous leader: someone who listens well, asks questions, distributes tasks fairly, gives praise and rewards success. But many of those behaviors come from a stance where you consider yourself as the legitimate “holder of power,” who then distributes it the way an owner gives away property. That’s not an attitude of grace.


The Attitude of Grace

Grace starts with an understanding that power is inherent in all of us and should be shared in many ways. John uses this wonderful acronym to keep us on track:

Generosity — the will to do something for others.

Respect — the dignity of life and work.

Action — the mechanism for change.

Compassion — the concern for others.

Energy — the spirit that catalyzes us.

I really like this, because it can help focus both seasoned and aspiring leaders during every phase of a leadership journey and throughout many parts of our days. Just getting started with an idea or concerned about your motivation for a project or investment? Ask yourself: is it based on generosity and doing something for others? Are you in the “thick of things,” very busy, doing “lots of stuff” and feeling over-booked? It’s time to find out if all those actions are “mechanisms for change,” or just running-in-place.



At the end of our discussion, John made another vital point about “energy”: That leaders during this very stressful time of the worldwide pandemic need to keep their energy up… not just for themselves, but for their families, teams, and companies. You may be tempted to work more hours to make up for some of the parts of the business that are taking a hit, but don’t be fooled… that’s another way of “hoarding power.” Get the sleep, nutrition, exercise, and down-time that you need and trust your team to do their jobs. Gracefully share your power, and you’ll get more of what you need back.

Don’t miss John’s book, Grace: A Leaders Guide to a Better Us.



Power can be seductive. But ultimately? Wise, servant leaders realize it’s a tool, a means–not the end itself. Do yourself a favor and listen to what John has to say on the subject and check out his book. It’s a more moral, healthy, and effective way of thinking about leadership than “hoarding power.”




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Photo Credit: v2osk

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