Leading Through Pain: A Guide for Hurting Leaders

3 min read
Source: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

Leaders are not immune to paralyzing news.

Source: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

In the world of leadership, there is no shortage of challenges. Leaders must navigate complex dynamics, make difficult decisions, and inspire their teams despite adversity. In the most dire of circumstances, they can compartmentalize, focus, and lead their teams and organizations.

But sometimes, the hurt is just too much. Leadership is tested in ways we could never anticipate. Tragic and horrific events have left many leaders grappling with the complex task of leading their people when they themselves are feeling utterly broken.

Like many of us, leaders are fixated on the latest news and, unable to concentrate, feeling a depth of pain and confusion never felt before. How can a leader move forward when they are paralyzed by unfolding events? After all, people are counting on them.

Acknowledging your emotions

Too often, we box in our feelings, afraid to share a moment’s vulnerability, fearing it will be viewed as a sign of weakness. But that’s not helping anyone. It’s crucial for hurting leaders to recognize and acknowledge their own emotional state. This means acknowledging that they are feeling pain and confusion. By recognizing and accepting their emotions, leaders can begin to address them in a healthy way.

Seeking support and self-care

Support and self-care are not a new phenomenon. Earlier generations have glossed over this critical need, leading to all sorts of negative consequences. It’s time to create a paradigm shift in how leaders view their healthy selves—and it goes far beyond yoga and granola bars.

Leadership can be lonely, and asking for help can seem like an insurmountable mountain to climb. But it shouldn’t be. Leaders should consider reaching out for support from colleagues, mentors, or mental health professionals. Seeking support allows leaders to process their emotions and gain perspective. Additionally, prioritizing self-care and spending time with loved ones can help leaders manage their emotional distress and regain emotional balance. The Covid pandemic confirmed what we already knew: Humans are social beings; we need to be around others. So carve out time to spend time with some of your favorite people.

Re-evaluate your leadership approach

Hurting leaders may need to reassess their leadership strategies and priorities. This may involve adjusting their leadership style, being transparent about their emotional state, and focusing on creating a supportive environment for team members.

Another alternative is exercising what is often called situational leadership, meaning letting the expert take the lead. There are others on the team who have expertise you can tap into. If you haven’t delegated before, this is a good time to leverage their unique skill sets and let them take the reins.

It’s important to recognize that leaders are not immune to emotional challenges, and being open about struggles can create a sense of empathy and shared experience within the team.

In the world of leadership, there is no shortage of challenges. Recent horrifying and tragic events have left many leaders grappling with the complex task of leading while feeling broken. For leaders grappling with pain and confusion during tragic events, it becomes essential to acknowledge their emotional state.

Seek support, incorporate self-care practices, and re-evaluate your leadership strategies. These are all indispensable for navigating trying circumstances effectively. By embracing vulnerability and openness, you lead by example and foster empathy and shared experiences within your teams, demonstrating the resilience and strength that leadership demands, even in the face of adversity.

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