The Road Less Traveled: Forgiveness in Leadership

DSC_0394 copyForgiveness has often been an afterthought in leadership, but how well can a society function with an unsympathetic leader? The QLC press team had a conversation with Wilma Derksen, a presenter who overcame a challenge in forgiveness. In 1984, Derksen’s daughter, Candace, was walking home from school and never returned, that day changed her life forever. “She was gone for six and a half weeks. My family and I begged the media for the safe return of our daughter.” Candace’s disappearance triggered one of the largest search parties in Winnipeg.

On November 17, 1985, Candace’s body was found in a shack, wrists died, frozen to death. “The day Candace’s body was found a man came to my door and told me that he was also the parent of a murdered child, I realized that was my status now. He told me that it was going to destroy me and that we needed to stick together for support.” This support is very familiar to Derksen who has since been very invovlved with support groups, “Healing is a very complicated process. Support groups are really important in this process, we have our own self reflective mirrors but the only mirrors for our soul is the one we find in the eyes of our friends.” Derksen has developed a healing path that involves a list of 15 steps to recovery, “When asked about how I wanted to deal with the offender during a press conference, my husband and I admitted that we were going to forgive. We wanted to focus on our own lives.”

Derksen has inspired many students, with her workshops and support groups, to head down a path of compassion, “I think forgiveness is a skill and a tool that needs to be a part of the tool kit of every leader.” With that said, she has encountered her own problems regarding healing and the path down forgiveness and self discipline; “Even though we forgive, we still deserve justice.” Derksen’s presentation involved discussing the role of forgiveness in leadership, “Forgiveness gives us the ability to realize that a leader has to look after people, otherwise they can’t move through the issues and personalize things when really it isn’t all about you.” She also encourages dialogue and communication, especially with her program of victim-prison inmate dialogue, “We found that we often have a lot in common with these inmates, like birthdays, anniversaries, even the legal teams we worked with.” Derksen’s dialog greatly encouraged the role of compassion, understanding, and forgiveness in leadership today. “The irony was that the man who murdered my daughter was the most influential person in my life. In some ways, he inadvertently became the greatest teacher in my life and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him today. Despite the tragedies, we often end up formulating a bond with our enemies.”

Dreksen’s moving presntation has provided us with some input into the less traveled road of forgiveness, “I bled all over Canada, I told everyone my story, and there’s a real beauty in listening to each other” and it truly was an inspiring story to listen to.

By: Sarra Mirghani