How to Navigate Leadership During a Time of Grief

Grief is in more places than you imagine.

Because of the pandemic, people have been suffering from some form of loss — it may be the loss of a loved one, a business or job, even the loss of simple pleasures such as dining out. To make matters worse, we don’t know what is gone temporarily and what is gone forever. 

Every employee that shows up to your business is managing some level of this heavy emotion. While it may be tempting to ignore this and keep a semblance of normalcy at work, in the long run, this will likely hurt your organization and employees’ daily experience. 

As a leader, it’s up to you to set the stage for how grief is accepted and managed within your company. Here are three ways I have found to not only grieve myself but use this human experience as a way to strengthen my business and community.

1. Lead with authenticity.

At the root of powerful leadership lies vulnerability. Most leaders think that they need to hide their grief, pain, or sadness. But what I’ve found is that grief and the feelings of grief are a beautiful chance for you to be authentic and vulnerable with your team.  

I don’t believe in looking like a flawless leader. Being a vulnerable leader also means stepping up to ask for help. It means showing up and saying, “I’m going to do my best despite what is happening, but I need to lean on you for support.” The hardest thing for most leaders to do is give away power, show tears, or emotion. But the truth is, that is the strongest thing one can do. 

2. Create a culture of humanness.

In the past few months both my grandmother and aunt passed away only a few weeks apart. It was tough to say the least, and I was grieving not only the loss of them but also the future moments we would have had together. I took the time to record a podcast specifically on this topic, during which I got real and raw. I then shared it with my community and staff as a reminder that life isn’t perfect, and that is okay. 

We so often forget that we are humans, especially in business where so much emphasis is placed on building the brand, serving our audience, adjusting our product offerings, and increasing revenue. As a result, we lose sight of what we really are: people with needs and emotions.

3. Leverage grief to strengthen your team.

Grief can be used as an opportunity for team-building, whether it be your internal staff or your community at large. We are all grieving, and when you, as a leader, are able to acknowledge this, it creates a sense of vulnerability within a team. People can pick up tasks they hadn’t done before when someone needs support. Team members can come together to work on a project to give someone a little reprieve. This not only breeds stronger employees but it instills a sense of comradery, and a “no soldier left behind” sort of mentality. Build a team atmosphere, not a me atmosphere. 

While the loss you are going through is painful, it can be used for good. You can share your story to inspire others to not give up, to connect with your community so they feel less alone, or to show business partners that you can persevere through anything. Don’t allow the loss you are experiencing to be lost within yourself. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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