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Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Bob Rolfe
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President of Tennessee Tech University, Dr. Philip Oldham
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Article from Knox.biz – The Need for Gracious Leadership

In times of confusion and turmoil such as the times we are currently living through, leadership voids can become more pronounced than ever. People are fearful – for their lives, the well being of their loved ones, and the sustainability of their businesses and their economic livelihoods.

As we have settled into the reality that the COVID-19 pandemic is a longer-term situation than we originally envisioned, we have begun looking for more than quick-fix answers and mere work-arounds. We are beginning to accept the reality that things won’t be back to “normal” anytime soon – a hard reality for the problem-solvers among us, who are accustomed to tackling issues and ultimately resolving them.

Waiting for things to get better, being patient, and coming to grips with our inability to change our current condition is particularly difficult for business owners and corporate executives, who are accustomed to being able to quickly execute smart strategies and to push forward aggressively in the direction of their goals.

Our current reality definitely calls for smart directional pivots and for thinking outside the box. But it also calls for people leading their organizations to view possible solutions through realistic eyes, to not over-promise (and be forced to under-deliver), and to be extremely honest in terms of the information they convey to their troops.

Generally, we are all suffering from information overload, from politically motivated messaging and from a growing distrust regarding what is factual and what is simply opinion.

I believe that what is needed most right now is gracious leadership, at every level of society, within every layer of government, and within all departments of companies. We are exhausted from the squabbling and shouting, as we struggle to safeguard our families and to keep our businesses visible.

So what is “gracious leadership?” What does it look like?

1. It begins with honesty and integrity. We need leaders whom we can trust, now more than ever.

2. Gracious leaders are servant leaders. They are there to serve their constituencies and to offer them their time and talents for the best interests of their organizations or communities.

3. They do not have a need to take credit, and they admit when their solutions to problems haven’t worked. Then, they offer up new and fresh ideas, frequently based on input from others. They listen.

4. They keep their eyes on the big goal, whatever that may be. They don’t get distracted by the “noise” around them that doesn’t really matter. They stay focused on the most important steps they need to take in order to move their organizations forward.

5. They remain optimistic, while being realistic. In other words, they “paint an uplifting picture on a real-life canvas.”

6. They admit it when they don’t have all the answers, and they seek out experts who have the ability and the credentials to help, They also give credit where credit is due and don’t feel diminished when someone else has a better idea.

7. Finally and most importantly, gracious leadership embodies a true spirit of kindness toward others, elevating other people’s ideas when they are helpful, and sometimes just being “the wind beneath the wings” of other leaders and followers who can contribute to the greater good and the long-term goals.

Seek out gracious leaders and be gracious leaders. Both you and your organization will benefit as a result.

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