Leading Through Isolation: Part 2

Your posture.  Your clothes.  The pitch and tone of your voice.  The seat you choose in the staff meeting.  It is often a surprise for new leaders how their team notices every little thing they do.  The spotlight of leadership is a stressor for some, but it is a tool for superb leadership.  Emotionally intelligent leaders—those who are in-touch with their own emotions and the emotions of others—are able to effectively lead through a deep understanding of the team’s emotional climate, and this is especially important for building teamwork in the context of remote work.

The theory of emotional contagion states that the feelings of one person can trigger similar feelings in others around them.  Notice how it’s easier to laugh when others in the room are doing the same?  Or, how the one gloomy Gus in the room can drag down a half dozen people?  You, as a leader, are often the center of attention, and emotional contagion of what you project is therefore stronger and more impactful.  In Leading through Isolation Part 1, we discussed some coaching tips for considering the emotional state and the needs of your team.  In this blog, we’ll talk about the importance of taking care of yourself, and how that can help your team.

Understand your own fears

In tumultuous times, it is easy to focus on the tasks-at-hand and your team.  But pausing to understand your own fears and concerns can help you to be in-touch with your own behavior and decisions.  In turn, it can provide insight into how your emotions are influencing the environment around you, including people.  Spending this time can also help you get a better understanding of how your team is feeling—chances are, they will have similar fears.

Share your vulnerabilities

As a leader, it is tempting to want to hide our vulnerabilities and fears—the things that make us human.  Who would want to follow a person with weaknesses and limitations?  As it turns out, most everyone.  Leadership is all about connection, and it is easier to connect with someone who has the same concerns and worries.  And, sharing your own vulnerabilities inspires others to offer something of themselves.

Maintain Optimism

Sharing vulnerabilities, if only from a negative perspective, is counterproductive.  As a leader, your job is to still focus on overcoming obstacles without discounting the importance of fears.  Work together with your people to think about solutions, bridging from past successes through the current difficulties with optimism and positivity to a shared vision. Ask your team how responding to the pandemic creates opportunities to advance a transformational strategy.  For example, after the horrors of the pandemic, medicine will be forever improved as telehealth and workflows leapfrog the current rate of change. How might your workflow or customer experience take a leap forward?  How might overcoming challenges build trust and loyalty?  As a vulnerable, optimistic leader, you can help redirect your team toward the future.