June 16

Stop Using THAT Word!

I’ve shared that leadership is executing mission and building strength to execute it more successfully. The unique metrics of gauging our success in leading are practicing the success habits of greatness and service simultaneously – otherwise known as magnanimity and fraternal humility. 

A few years ago, a friend of mine said, in no uncertain terms to “…stop using THAT word (magnanimity)!” 

The reason? A few were given:

  • No one knows the word magnanimity, and if they do, half of them can’t pronounce it
  • It sounds arrogant, and therefore, 
  • It creates a disconnect. 

I decided he was right, and so I tapped the breaks on using it. 

Well, NOW I am finding myself being drawn back to using THAT word, and I would like your help in discerning how to most effectively do so. 

First of all, let’s define magnanimity simply as the state of being magnanimous, which is having and displaying a generous or forgiving heart or attitude, especially toward a rival or less powerful person.

Why now? I’ve heard a few things lately that I feel may help connect others to magnanimity. The first thing I heard was a quote by a recent saint named JoseMaria Escriva of Spain, who lived until recently. He said: “Magnanimity means greatness of spirit, a largeness of heart wherein many can find refuge.” The words ‘spirit’ and ‘heart’ are synonymous with the word ‘character.’ I shared this quote with that same friend, and that definition was much more relatable to him.  

The other thing I heard lately was that practicing the success habit of magnanimity was treating those that don’t like you or hurt you just as well as those that do. It’s also drawing greatness out of others, not just the folks that are like you. 

Frankly, I had never thought of it that way. I’ve always thought of practicing magnanimity in more appealing ways to me such as doing great things in the different parts of my life as a spouse, parent, co-worker, community member or spirit-filled person.  

Here are some final thoughts:

  1. I believe the unique metrics of leadership are the success habits of magnanimity and humility, and leaders have to practice them together. 
  2. I believe these success habits are the metric for each other. What I mean is you measure magnanimity by the space you create for others to use their talents and do great things for the common good. At the same time you measure fraternal humility by how successful you are at doing great things with and through others.   
  3. I believe humility comes before magnanimity (I’ll share ‘why’ in a process visual next week).

What makes sense to you? Does this word energize you or make you curious? What’s confusing?   

About the author 

Darren Smith

Darren Smith is Co-Founder of the Authentic Leadership Institute. He is a native Texan and a graduate of Dallas Jesuit and Texas A&M University. Over the past 25 years, Darren has visited 35 countries and led 100 strategy programs. He and his wife have five children.


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