I love meeting gracious leaders. There is a quality that endears them to insiders and outsiders alike. Moreover, they possess essential characteristics that all leaders can emulate and learn from. Here are some of the most important.
When they are with you, they focus on the conversation rather than thinking about other things. Being present in the moment when with others is a discipline that says, "you are important," and "I am interested in what you are saying." Too many leaders do not allow themselves to be fully present but are obviously thinking about other things.
Gracious leaders like to listen and ask questions. In other words, they focus outwardly on others rather than inwardly on themselves. As a result, they engage in your life, your ministry, your family, and you!
Gracious leaders are generous in their praise, thanks, and appreciation and sparing in criticism. When they need to press into an issue, they do it gently and clearly, but you always get the sense that they care about you and want you to succeed.
They don't hold grudges and have short memories of adverse events in the past. Gracious leaders have a way of focusing on the positive while not ignoring the negative. They keep short accounts, let you know what they think even when course corrections are needed, and then move on.
The language of gracious leaders is uplifting, encouraging, and life-giving. That last quality is critical. Think about those you interact with that discourage or drain you. Gracious leaders are the opposite. After interactions with them, you are filled and encouraged because gracious leaders are life givers rather than life takers. You want to be around them as a result.
Gracious leaders may be busy, but they are never too busy to take the time to stop, acknowledge others, and interact with them. As a result, they give the impression that their staff and constituency are supremely important and do so because it is genuinely true as outward-focused individuals.
Gracious leaders can be generous with others because they are comfortable in their own skin and at home with themselves. In other words, they have paid attention to their own hearts and inner lives, and as a result, that healthy inner life spills out into their relationships with others. Their graciousness is a discipline (how I treat others) and a habit (because they are internally healthy).
In many ways, the Fruit of the Spirit encompasses the character of a gracious leader. It is a worthwhile exercise for leaders to regularly ask themselves if their relationships are characterized by the fruit of love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. The more we focus on these and develop our inner lives around them, the more gracious we will become.