Repent might seem like an odd topic for a leadership blog. Perhaps that is because we often associate the word with the spiritual admonition to “feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.” But repent also means “to view or think of (an action or omission) with deep regret or remorse.”
This week marks the beginning of the Lenten season for Christians, the forty days that count down the calendar to Easter Sunday. Lent is a time to confess and repent, a personal invitation to review one’s life and consider where behavior may have fallen short.
Leaders are certainly guilty of behaving badly, as evidenced by public examples that now routinely end up on social media. Unfortunately, many of them simply blame their circumstances on someone or something else instead of acknowledging personal culpability. Denial or finger pointing won’t help fallen leaders become more effective or respected.
Why do leaders struggle to repent? My actions in the workplace aren’t always acceptable. If I deny the problem my moral compass causes guilt. If I fail to apologize or make amends, my guilt will eventually subside or even disappear. But the person I have wronged may never understand or forgive my actions.
It is simpler and healthier to repent and repair the damage we cause.
If the benefits are so obvious why don’t we repent more readily? One reason may be the cultural pressure to blame others. Another is that truth-telling has become secondary to profits, political correctness, and protecting one’s interests or image. Finally, our nation has lost much of the religious and moral fabric that once influenced the way we conduct business and behaved personally and professionally.
It’s time to admit there are consequences for our transgressions. Guilt saps physical energy, drains us emotionally, and deadens our spirit.
Leaders would do well to own and name their misdeeds. Confession could become a powerful instrument for healing. Relationships might be restored and new models for organizational behaviors established.
We need leaders with the courage to authentically repent. The next forty days of Lent is a good place to start.
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