Leading (and loving) in times of turmoil

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I haven’t written a blog article in quite some time – so please forgive me if it’s not my most eloquent.

I suspect a typical reaction to the title of this article (in the context of a blog about leadership and executive coaching) would be to think about a business leader dealing with a turbulent business environment (volatile market, sales/profit down, retention challenges, etc.) and trying to lead his people and her organization through the turmoil. Very reasonable assumption … but not what I want to write about today.

Stressed manTo say we’re in tumultuous times, both domestically and internationally, is putting it lightly in my opinion. Those who grew up in earlier generations might argue they had the same or worse and they may very well have – but regardless, I think reasonable people would agree we’re in quite a bit of turmoil today. Domestically, we’re seeing almost daily reports about someone being killed violently and a particularly nasty presidential election. Internationally, we’re hearing the same in the form of terrorism, war, and atrocities. I have opinions on all those things (not the point of this article) and I don’t claim to have all the answers (also not the point) … So what is the point? I do think that business and other organizational leaders can contribute to helping people cope with the stress and uncertainty created by the chaotic current events bombarding us.

I’ve written in the past about leading from the heart in the context of business leadership. I’ve also written about how I dislike the phrase, “it’s not personal,” often stated in the context of a business decision. My point is that leaders lead people … and the people we’re leading are experiencing all of the things mentioned above. And I would submit that many of those people (myself included) are struggling to cope and focus. People might be able to compartment some of these issues but eventually something will strike a little too close to home (or maybe even impact them directly). Case in point, the reason I’m compelled to write this blog article is that I was particularly troubled yesterday to hear that a priest was murdered and a nun very badly injured in church in the Normandy region of France. For me, as a Catholic, the thought of a priest and nun being brutally attacked in a church (reportedly while celebrating the Mass) is particularly devastating – it literally makes my heart ache. I don’t claim these people’s lives are any more important that others’ … my point is that this particular travesty affected me substantially because of my own circumstances and beliefs. To the point of this article, it affected me at work – I had trouble concentrating on the tasks of the day. And I suspect that many people that went to work yesterday, today, or maybe when they head in tomorrow will be affected one way or another and to one degree or another by the events dominating U.S. and international news. So what’s that got to do with leadership and leading from the heart?

Maybe today when you see a colleague in the hallway, at the coffee machine, or even online, and you ask, “How are you” or “How’s it going,” you can take an extra few minutes to listen and talk. I know some folks, especially in a work environment, are more remiss than others to “open up.” But who knows? Maybe someone on your team today would benefit from a chat with you about something other than a monthly report, or those revenue numbers, or the next deadline. SJDBSK6K29Maybe they have a family member in Orlando, a police officer in the family, a friend who’s been treated unjustly, a military spouse deployed overseas … and maybe knowing that the boss is genuinely interested when he asks, “What’s going on?” or she asks, “How’s your family,” is that little ray of light that gets them over the hump and through the day.

So consider leading from the heart today (I know many of you already do). I leave you with this from two prominent business professors and authors on leadership (Kouzes and Posner): “And what sustains the leader? From what source comes the leader’s courage? The answer is love. Leaders are in love – in love with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with their customers.”

Copyright © 2016 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.

First image courtesy of Master/freedigitalimages.net


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One thought on “Leading (and loving) in times of turmoil

  1. Darren West

    Thanks for the encouragement. It’s something we all need to remember: we’re people first, and events outside the workplace affect what we do in the workplace. And also this: we’re all people – that’s our common denominator (sounds obvious when you type it out like that). But that means we can/should relate to one another on emotions; in these times, those emotions are often sadness, fear, anxiety, or others. Whether or not I was affected the same way as you by whatever was the most recent, troubling event doesn’t matter so much as our ability to relate to one another on the basis of emotions we’ve all felt. You were troubled by the events in Normandy. I can recognize those feelings because I’ve been troubled in the past as well. Those common emotions are the foundation for leaders to reach out to their teams.

    Your post reminded me of a podcast I heard recently on NPR’s Code Switch program, titled Black and Blue: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/07/14/485728431/the-code-switch-podcast-episode-9-black-and-blue
    It’s about black police officers in America and how they’re dealing with the current climate. One part that stood out for me was that President Obama, at a meeting between Black Lives Matter and police union leaders at the White House, noted that all participants in the meeting should recognize that both sides were experiencing pain. His point, I believe, was to drive both sides to recognize that despite the differences that had emerged in that meeting, all were experiencing the same basic feelings. To me, that’s a great example of leading with mercy because he’s evoking empathy and the commonness in all people.

    Last point – your post also reminded me of this article, on Medium: https://medium.com/@Mandela/my-white-boss-talked-about-race-in-america-and-this-is-what-happened-fe10f1a00726#.1w2pxddmw
    It describes the experience of one employee when her boss did exactly what you’re recommending: ask and really listen to how your team members are doing. In this instance, it was a white leader talking with her black team member. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and another example of leading with mercy.

    Thanks for the post!


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