What can grief teach you about leadership?

“It just makes it that much harder to grieve when people are trying to direct your emotional path.” That’s what my friend said when I caught up with her the other morning, and it struck me. Her mother has recently, and suddenly, passed away. I think it is a very profound statement, not to mention honest. What I read between the lines is frustration and perhaps some fatigue.

I asked her if I could use it as a jumping off point to a blog and she agreed, which I also thought was pretty brave considering she was sharing her feelings in confidence. But she is brave, and I think she is brave because she is honest about how difficult this is and how loss conjures up a lot of feelings, not necessarily just the good ones. Then she said ‘when people tell her to focus on the good memories it feels fractured, because it doesn’t tell the whole story. I thought that was profound as well. And brave again, to even acknowledge never mind, consider all of the memories, not just the good ones.

Realistically, no one’s story is all the good parts.

The bad parts, the hard parts, the sad parts – they all make us into our whole self, without them we are inauthentic and incomplete. So I was proud of her, which I neglected to share, but I was proud because she was telling the truth, and I think sometimes we veer away from the truth because its uncomfortable. No relationship is without challenges. And when we tell people to just focus on the good, are we in some way doing a disservice to their healing? Are we hoping there is more good than bad or are we just saying what we think will make them feel better? Perhaps, we need to be a little less robotic and a little more deliberate?

What I began to think about after our conversation was how each relationship really has a personality of its own. And that brought me to work and business and leadership. I am a firm believer in hiring good people to do work they love and that they are good at, which is usually easier than you would think. In fact, I recently ran into this with a colleague who I assumed did things that he in fact, did not. So I consulted a mutual colleague who clarified and I was immediately at ease knowing that;

  1. My first guy didn’t want to agree to do something he wasn’t great at or liked to do.
  2. My clarifying guy felt comfortable being honest with me about how I had requested something that was not a good fit.
  3. I have co-built relationships where we can have these kinds of conversations because its better for all my guys, and me.

bowlingMaybe it’s like bumper lanes rather than a redirect? Like in bowling, there are bumpers and gutters that don’t allow you to roll your ball down another lane (well, unless you are very aggressive I suppose, then that rogue action requires intervention) but a great percentage of the time; your ball makes its own path down the alley. Sometimes that path is straight sometimes it’s not. And the bumpers and gutters don’t turn the ball to head a completely different direction; they are there when you need them, if you need them.

If you apply that concept to leadership; consider that you, the leader, are the bumper and gutter and that your team are the bowlers. Once you set your vision and communicate that to them, you must give them freedom to take action. And that freedom comes with the good and the bad. Some may chose to use two hands, or throw it with their left hand instead of their right, others will need to practice while others are instant pros. You are there to catch the off alley balls and guide them down the path. And yes, go get the rogue bowlers when necessary and reiterate the vision and query as to where they misunderstood. But part of leadership is knowing your team, their talents, and their approaches. Leadership is knowing the ‘personality’ of your relationships with your team.

Leadership is lophoto-1469276093774-c273601c8b02oking at the bad and the good. Leadership is being willing to listen to good advice from the ones you have placed in your circle of trust, and to not expect a robotic response. Leadership is knowing when to be a bumper and when to grab a rogue ball.

And maybe so is friendship, maybe we all too often take our relationship for granted and forget that we can learn something new about someone. Maybe we become robotic because we don’t know what we’d do with all of the emotion, or maybe we just want to help so we say what we’ve heard, or read, or seen. I don’t have the right answer, but I do know that being authentic and acknowledging the good, and the bad, makes the relationship stronger, and far more whole than just focusing on the just the good.

May we all be blessed with friendships and leaders that accept our good and our bad, and may we reciprocate.

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