Leading Yourself and Others in a Time of Grief

Not many of us will get through life without experiencing grief. Sometimes that grief can be isolating, and sometimes the grief is shared among a group of people. Many of us are experiencing grief right now because of the pandemic. We’ve lost loved ones, homes and jobs. We’ve also lost our freedom in many ways.

Most likely everyone in your professional and social circles are dealing with grief and loss right now. How can you effectively lead them and yourself through these challenging times?

Acknowledge the Grief

Acknowledging grief and validating others’ feelings is paramount. David Kessler, author and foremost expert on grief and loss often says that it’s important for a grieving person to be fully present within their pain and grief and not try to put a silver lining on it. It is equally important for a leader to be present in the space of grief, to not try and suppress their emotions or others’ emotions, but to validate them and move through them with grace and understanding.

Show Up

There’s a lyric in an old blues song that goes, “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.” And that tends to be true. It’s easy to be around others when they are happy and their life is going well. It’s not so easy when they are down and out or suffering in some way.

As a leader, it’s important that you show up in those times your people need you, not just when it’s convenient. A leader shows up during life’s trials and tribulations.

Harness Your Emotions

Harvard Medical School professor Susan David states that people tend to revel in positive emotions while apologizing for negative ones. In her book, “Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life,” David proposes that our emotions can be our greatest teachers, revealing what we value most. When we harness ALL of our emotions, we can become our best selves and help others to do the same.

Reset Expectations

When a team is experiencing grief, they cannot perform the same. It is important for leaders to understand the full situation and reset their expectations. This is not a time to demand a specific performance level, but rather, guide your team to do the very best they can under the circumstances.

As leaders, the question we need to ask ourselves is not, “Will I ever need to lead during a time of grief?” but instead, “How can I make the greatest impact in the face of adversity?”

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