Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST National Advisor and Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coined the term “Gracious ProfessionalismTM.”
Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.
With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.
In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.
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I often like to quip that professionalism is a much nicer word than dehumanization. I’m not *quite* so cynical about the concept anymore, but in many ways I think there’s a lot of truth in the quip. If professionalism means not bringing your personal problems into the office, then I think gracious professionalism means politely overlooking it when other people are unprofessional enough to do so.