America has been moved by a recent and surprising act of mercy.
Over a year ago, Amber Guyger, a police officer from Dallas, Texas, fatally shot Botham Jean after mistaking his apartment for her own. This past week, the trial of Jean’s murder came to a close. Guyger was found guilty and sentenced to over 10 years in prison.
Moments after Guyger was convicted of Jean’s murder, his brother, Brandt, testified before the court.
During his impact statement, Brandt told Guyger, among his many other gracious words, “I forgive you, and I only want the best for you.” Brandt then asked the judge, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please?” Brandt proceeded to hug Guyger in front of the court. A remarkable moment of forgiveness has drawn as much attention as the case itself. In the midst of a senseless tragedy, Brandt was prompted to show heartfelt forgiveness through an act of mercy.
Forgiveness may be the forgotten trait in leadership. It may even be frowned upon by some as not taking the upper hand, when it is, in fact, taking the higher road. As leaders, we can feel it is our place to tell someone when they're wrong and to penalize them publicly for their oversight to ensure it never happens again.
Although, what we often don’t recognize is that an act of forgiveness can speak louder than the innate human reaction to be offended. While forgiveness isn’t the most popular trait in leadership, it is no doubt an underutilized strength. When you can truly embody forgiveness, it is a characteristic that can mark your leadership more than most.
Here is how you can make forgiveness a key component of your leadership:
- Understand their intention. While good intentions don’t always make for the best results, recognize most mistakes aren’t meant to happen. When faced with an employee who has done something wrong, whether it is an oversight or something that could have been avoided, realize they didn’t intend to mess up.
- Don’t define the person by their faults. It can be easy to judge an employee by their mistakes. They may even be someone we never thought anything of until they have done something wrong. Sometimes we sum up someone’s entire character based on one single mistake. Offer mercy in these moments, even within your own perception of the person.
- Have a sincere conversation with the individual. Taking time to speak with the employee will not only bring closure to the situation but will allow you to hear the other side. Showing you are willing to listen can be an act of forgiveness in itself.
- It doesn’t always need an explanation. Some circumstances may not need to be explained. There may be times when you need to accept an apology and take it at face value. Learning how to truly forgive without always needing a full explanation is sometimes necessary.
- Forgive and forget, but don’t be aloof. Forgiveness is a needed attribute in leadership, but it doesn’t mean we remain removed from the fact that a similar mistake may occur again with another employee. Allow these circumstances to be a lesson to keep in the back of our minds.
- Learn to forgive yourself. Our ability to forgive others can be a clear reflection of our ability to forgive ourselves. When we can learn to forgive ourselves, and let ourselves move on from our own mishaps, we can more easily offer mercy to others.
The kind of forgiveness Brandt Jean displayed in the face of such a tragic loss is so rare to come by these days. In fact, forgiveness in the face of nearly any wrongdoing is rare to see. Yet, it is a reminder to all of us of the incredible power of forgiveness.
When we allow forgiveness to become a strength, we allow our people to matter more than the circumstances. When we offer mercy in these situations, we offer the chance for others to rise above their faults.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of "Framework Leadership." A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern’s president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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