Resilience and grief: The leadership challenge
This is a time of so much sadness. And probably more ahead. Many of us will lose friends, acquaintances, or even loved ones. And even if you don’t fall into that vategory, you’re probably grieving the loss of your life as you knew it, the loss of intimate human connection, the loss perhaps of your livelihood.
Most Americans are ill-equipped to deal with grief. This article from Harvard Business Review (go figure) is an important guide for leaders.
The bulk of the article is an interview with David Kessler, who with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote the landmark On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss.
Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. …This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.
Kessler offers suggestions for leaders who need to support others while managing their own sense of loss. One example:
To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.
Every parent knows this. How you are communicates way more than words. If you can calm your heart, those you lead will respond.