by Michele Mariscal PhD

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life Influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

Leadership is not necessarily about being strong, but being human. The work of Brené Brown has laid the groundwork for courageous leadership – helping leaders recognize and practice vulnerability as a skill of leadership. Using this concept as a guide, here are some helpful things to know and practice while confronting the often emotional aspects of leadership. These can also help you and your employees find self-leadership and inspire others around them:

  • Provide connection for and with employees to share their experiences openly. For example, I was able to share in my department meeting this week my deep sadness about canceling my flight home to be with my family at Christmas. This was in addition to sharing how my projects are going for work. I get to share ALL of me so that I’m not perpetuating two of the biggest myths in the world of grief: “grieve alone” and “be strong.” Remember it’s about being human and it is our humanity that most influences another.
  • While naming emotions is important, you can also help yourself and employees create a commitment. Naming those difficult emotions shifts the brain signals from the amygdala (our storage place of fear emotional patters) to activity in the pre-frontal cortex where creative problem solving can occur.* So, for example, one might be able to state a commitment like “I take each moment as it comes today.” Daily commitments help with staying present and away from future worries.
  • The inability to lock in to something that feels certain creates hyperactivity in the nervous system. Physical and mental exhaustion are outcomes of this. Share as much and as many resources as you can! EAP programs have mobilized and are providing many options.

*   Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling Disrupts Amygdala Activity in Response to Affective Stimuli. Matthew D. Lieberman, Naomi I. Eisenberger, Molly J. Crockett, Sabrina M. Tom, Jennifer H. Pfeifer, and Baldwin M. Way. Psychological Science 2007;18(5):421-428.