2020 has been one heck of year for many reasons! There is one thing it changed that may be front of mind. It changed leadership. Whether you work for someone, own your own company, or are a solo-entrepreneur, everything changed.
For years, some of the most successful leaders have embraced leadership centered around leading with vision, drive, tenacity, and certainty – being in control with all the answers. While it is true that great leadership does take vision, courage, an ability to face adversity and change, this year has shown us so much more is needed. This year leadership changed. We changed. We all changed.
While reassurance is great, statements like “we will get through this, it will be fine” left team members feeling lost and confused. It is true that we will get through this period, time will march on, and we will get through. However, things do not feel like they will be fine to many people, the uncertainty is taking a toll.
The truth is many leaders have no idea how to navigate these hard times. I talk with dozens of leaders every week and they all say the same thing, they don’t know what to say. If I could share anything it would be to be authentic and truthful. Simply say “we will get through this, we’re going to learn and grow, it is hard, it hurts, it is stressful, we don’t know what we will be facing before life returns to any part of what we knew but we are stronger together and will make it through”. Teams are made up of people, of whole people. People who have lost loved ones, parents, siblings, children, best friends, co-workers and many more. Anyone fortunate enough to not have lost someone still is likely still concerned about those they love getting the virus or have watch loved one and friends sick with it. Some have loved ones on the front lines caring for those with the virus. The worry and sadness of loved ones being in the hospital alone, the lack of ability to visit those in assisted living and the loneliness without hugs from friends and family this holiday is a another part of the whole picture. Many had lost a loved one before this began and are facing their first holiday alone only to be truly isolated this year. All of this, on top of figuring out how to: home-school your children, find toilet paper and sanitizer, and celebrate the holidays. As if all of that is not enough, people are still trying to do their job the best they can and they are tired.
I have spent the last 30 years as an HR executive and leadership coach and can say with certainty that this year is the most important holiday season for leadership that I have seen in my career. Staff are in desperate need of leadership as we wrap up the year. It is the perfect time to step into bold leadership and share with your team that you know it has been hard, it’s been hard for you too. Yes, they want, even need, to hear that! Share that you don’t have it all figured out and are struggling too. Toss out the notion that you must be strong and stoic. It is time to be even stronger, to be strong enough to be vulnerable, to admit that you don’t know or have all of the answers and it’s been hard for you too. Your team will enter the start of the year with more respect for you and being more kind to themselves knowing they are not alone in their feelings. More than ever, staff are craving humanity, connection, and a desire to help one-another.
The great news about being a leader in this time is that you have everything you need to give staff what they need more than anything – a human leader. Your team needs to know that you “get it” are “there for them”, and “you are figuring out just like them”.
I have been working with hundreds of people all throughout this year. As the cases of COVID are spiking, schools remain remote and things all around us are closed, staff are struggling even more. We have a long way to go yet before life will re-open. The struggle will get worse before it gets better. Staff’s mental health will continue to take a toll. Stress levels will increase, marriages will be strained, children will learn less, and a whole slew of other things will continue to weigh on people. During this time, staff want someone who has vision and drive coupled with compassion and empathy. Some leaders are good at the first two or the last two but there is a need for all four and that need is urgent. Vision and drive get people to leadership roles when adding compassion and empathy that is where people – where you – have the greatest impact.
Together, we will struggle. Together, we will hurt. Together, we will morn. Together, we will find our new normal. Together, we will rise. Give your team what they need most this holiday: truth, grace, the permission to be whole at work, and the gift of knowing they are not alone. It is simple but takes courage. It starts with you making space for this by giving yourself permission to be your whole self at work too, by being authentically and vulnerably you.
May we all not only survive 2020 but enter 2021 stronger than yesterday, more compassionate, more empathetic, and more kind to ourselves and each other! Happy Holidays!