Is forgiveness an overlooked leadership skill?

If you’re like me – You believe in the faith-based and health-based reasons to practice forgiveness.

But have you ever considered that forgiveness might be an important leadership skill?

In the book Picking Cotton, two people share their true story:

  • They are both 23.
  • She’s white, a senior in college with a 4.0 and looking forward to starting her career, marrying her boyfriend and having a family.
  • He is a person of color, working, and has a history of making some unwise choices.

One night she is at home alone and a man breaks into her apartment and rapes her.Picking Cotton

She is able to escape and eventually identifies this man as her rapist.

He insists that she is mistaken.

She is convinced that her memory is correct and makes a strong witness for the prosecution.

He is convicted and goes to prison for 11 years. (In spite of the fact that he continually says he is innocent, in spite of the fact that he meets the man in prison that actually committed the crime, and in spite of the fact that his blood type does not match the blood type found at the scene.)

As DNA evidence becomes a possibility it is proven that he was not the rapist and he is released.

Max Lucado Forgiveness QuoteIn spite of everything –  he has learned how to forgive.  So even though he was behind bars for 11 years – his soul and spirit have been free.

When he is released he is ready to move on.

Two years after his release he finally meets the woman that thought she was his victim. His ability to offer her grace and forgiveness helps her forgive herself.

Today they are close friends that work together speaking about where our justice system fails and how we can fix that. And in that process they both learn how easily memories can be contaminated.

It’s critically important to note that the message that opens the door for all other messages to be heard begins with their uncommon story of forgiveness and grace.  

When light meets the dark, healing begins.

Now imagine how differently that story would have ended if he let the anger build while he was in prison.

  • He could have been released and come after her or her family and destroyed their lives.
  • He could have involved some of his family in vengeance and destroyed their lives.
  • Many people could have died and many more could be in prison.

Instead their story models this:

Struggle

Together they are changing each other, their families and the world!

What are your thoughts?So what do you think? Is forgiveness an overloked leadership skill?

  • Can you be at your best if anger and hatred are your constant companions?
  • Can you help others be their best – if your are raging inside?
  • How would history and current events be altered if leaders modeled understanding and forgiveness – instead of revenge?
  • Who can you inspire, encourage and help to heal by practicing forgiveness?

Image credit:  iStock

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. …Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God’s grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari’s, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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4 thoughts on “Is forgiveness an overlooked leadership skill?

  1. Forgiveness is perhaps the most important character trait whether leader or follower. But to your point, leaders without the ability or inclination to forgive are emotionally deficient. Without the capacity to forgive and move on, there will always be heavy burdens that clutter minds and have to be lugged around like a cart with flat wheels.

  2. Loved your insightful post, Chery!

    I do believe forgiveness is essential for leaders to understand and embrace. If we are not able to forgive, we often get stuck and can’t move on. I worked with this woman who did not support me with a client issue. She knew the client was not being truthful but didn’t come to my aid. I have a difficult time working with her now, have not forgotten but have forgiven her. It has empowered me to move forward and not dwell on something that was out of my control.

    Thanks Chery for another great article!

    • Thank you Terri!

      You make such a great point – forgiveness and wisdom need to be blended.
      Forgiveness says “I” won’t carry the baggage of the hurt around and “I” won’t seek revenge.
      Wisdom says “I” have a reason not to offer blind trust, and a reason to carefully consider how “I” will interact with someone.

      I worked with someone years ago that was charming, funny, and smart – she was also really lazy, a constant liar and a manipulator. There are lots of things that I will do for her today to care for her as a person. At the same time, I won’t do things that enable her negative behavior.