Column: The Emily Angle – Leaders should display grace instead of hostility

Our views of leadership are often skewed in a culture where the loudest shout often dominates the room.  Nikki Haley, however, seeks to “kick with a smile” and lead with both “grit and grace.” She says the way she conducts herself in situations influences how everyone else conducts themselves moving forward.

As governor of South Carolina, Haley led the state through some of its most vulnerable days after the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Mother Emanuel) in Charleston, South Carolina, that claimed the lives of nine church goers.  

As a South Carolinian, I remember the shock of first hearing of the tragedy where the “Emanuel Nine” were killed during their Wednesday night Bible study at Mother Emanuel by a gunman intending  to start a race war.  A tragedy this extreme had not hit so close to home in my lifetime, and I knew our state would never be the same. 

Gov. Haley attended and spoke at each one of the nine funerals, watched as the victims’ families forgave the shooter in court and grieved alongside those effected by the tragedy.    

The nation watched as Gov. Haley led our state so boldly, bravely and decisively in the days that followed. She guided firmly through such a sensitive time, but with a compassionate sensitivity of the fresh wounds for all involved and the families left behind.  

Haley led with both courage and compassion. She wanted healing, not hatred, to result from the event that shook our state and threatened to bring disunity. 

Haley eventually made the controversial decision to take down the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds because of its painful connotation and its association to the gunman’s manifesto. Through this decision, Haley led the state forward in unity and in healing the deep hurt that could have resulted in deeper division. 

As I watched Haley lead my home state of South Carolina as governor, and then serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (UN), I saw an unbreakable resolve rooted in her deep respect for others. Ambassador Haley spent much of her time in the UN defending the defenseless, and she led as an advocate for unborn lives, human rights, persecuted Christians around the world and the nation of Israel.  

In Haley’s new book, “With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace,” Haley candidly recounts her time as governor and ambassador. Despite backlash and opposition, Haley never wavered from her principles.

Nikki Haley is tough in her leadership, but she still conducts herself in a way that does not demean others or destroy relationships. When the media and political opponents have attacked her, she has responded with grace and kind words. 

Haley’s example shows that being kind does not negate one’s effectiveness in leadership. Graceful leadership may seem rare, but my mind floods with examples of leaders who led from a stance of kindness, and their impact and effectiveness are undeniable.  

The idea of graceful leadership is not an oxymoron. Leaders can be both silent and strong, confident and compassionate, firm and kind, as they lead with grace in a hostile culture. 

 When Haley delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address, she highlighted the importance of the power
of listening in leadership:  

“In many parts of society today…there is a tendency to falsely equate noise with results,” Haley said. “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That’s just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.”

In a world of shouting, scolding and picking fights on social media, choose to respond with kindness, conversations and compassion. This type of leader has the power to shake the world and alter history for the better. 

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