I recently lost a very good friend to cancer. Her passing was not unexpected, yet the experience gave me an opportunity to evaluate some of my beliefs and behavior about life and death as well as the leadership role I took in the situation.
Death never comes at a convenient time and it challenges us to be more real with ourselves as well as the people around us. The passing of a loved one, a colleague, or someone who we have rarely agreed with, usually brings up a range of emotions including feelings of grief, relief, anger, sadness and love. Illness much like any other crisis (personal or professional) challenges our ability to lead. It raises the bar significantly and requires us to have a vision and communicate with clarity, set boundaries and push back, but most of all it gives us the opportunity to be loving.
With death, there is a space for new beginnings, healing, and upliftment. With a professional crisis, there is the possibility to be brilliant and make a difference. As a leader, you have the opportunity to set the tone of the situation. You uplift the friends and family of the deceased by the way you interact with them, or you can champion and acknowledge your team that is looking to solve the crisis.
Too frequently we get attached to our position in the board room or war room. When Ted Kennedy died, the outpouring of love and honor for his life and efforts, regardless of who was on his side in the Senate, was amazing. As leaders, take today and love people around you. Take today to be kind, to be generous and to listen. We do not need such a drastic event as death to be shocked by what “we should have said.” Open up and share your love with the people who are working with you. Research has indicated that people perform way better when they are receiving positive reinforcement. Add some love to that and see what might be possible.