Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This week, the Olympics comes to a close as we as the world acknowledges that we can celebrate as one globe despite all our differences. Poignant performances were balanced by some personal disappointments but the memories for me of Jessica Higgins surging to cross country gold for the first time in US history and the US Women’s hockey team prevailing in a fierce overtime shootout will not soon leave me. In the face of all these good tidings, our country has faced much sadness too with external events like the Parkland school shooting giving us great pause. I too have noted many friends on Facebook facing personal challenges as well. It reminds me of a point I seldom dwell on but is crucial for leaders to recognize. Leaders are human and it is important for us to acknowledge the important trait of grief.
Jon Mays wrote a February 2018 article the “The Importance of Grief” acknowledging that life is a journey and grief is merely one stage on that journey: “Through our grief, we should recognize that life changes, and that what is considered to be a loss does not always have to be. There can be a shift, a new chapter. Grief is a reminder that there is love and loss and connection and growth.” For all leaders, we are called to move forward and grief is one of the steps forward. Leaders do not advance the cause by side stepping the grief stage. Leaders are human too. Mays writes: “Grief is evidence that life, with all of its messiness, has meaning and that we do too.”
Life is precious and it is periods of grief for illness or loss of life that we remember that most. A leader grieves but a leader also remembers to move forward too with words of encouragement, setting milestones for healing and establishing anniversaries and other remembrances so that we can remember those we grieve for. Having served in the military for many decades, I always remember prescient advice a mentor gave to me. He remined me to always give in to your emotions when a sad event occurs, but never lose control so that you stop leading. That is the burden of responsibility all leaders carry. I used that advice a few times in the latter portion of my career where I grieved in private but kept a strong public face to help the team rally.
Helpguide.org lists five ways acknowledge grief and then move beyond:
Acknowledge your pain.
Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.
Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.
Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you.
Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.
Each tenet can be used to support followers afflicted with grief as well. Leaders move out. This occurs in successful scenarios, times of crisis and times of grief. As the Winter Olympics comes to a close, the final ceremony is emblematic of a leader’s calling. The flame dims but it carried forward by the next country to be lit again in four years. Leaders never let the flame go out. Leaders grieve and then they bring back hope.
“A leader is a dealer in hope.” ― Napoléon Bonaparte