Leading Through Loss

I’ve been struggling to identify the feeling.  I know I’ve had feelings of uncertainty (safety and health) and disappointment (national leadership).

I’ve had deep-seated feelings of sadness (for 3.28 million+ lost jobs).  And, I’ve had feelings of deep care for humanity who are experiencing all kinds of “stuff” (however this is described). Furthermore, I absolutely feel sorrow for so so many who have died from COVID-19 (as of now 24,000 persons); and, of course, sincere concern for over 500,000 fellow human beings who have or had this merciless, global virus.

Happily, I feel profound gratitude for the countless healthcare and first responders who are tirelessly working around the clock for our own welfare and health.

But, I believe the feeling I’ve been attempting to identify is loss.

As I socially & distantly interface with those within my eco-system of life, and as I listen, read, and watch, I get the “sense” we are struggling with loss.

  • A loss of routine.
  • A loss of normalcy.
  • A loss of income.
  • A loss of touch.
  • A loss of patience.
  • A loss of relatedness.
  • A loss of life.

So what does this mean?  It means that when we experience loss, we grieve!  It’s not just uncertainty.  It isn’t only anxiety.  It’s more than disruption.  It may be bigger than fear.  I think it is grief.  And, as would be expected—and honored—we all grieve in our own way.

From a leadership perspective, ours is to own our feelings first.  Come in touch with those feelings, breathe into those feelings, and, yes, please express those feelings with significant others.  Whew!

I also believe that as leaders, we need to have compassion for and empathy with our family, friends, and colleagues who are experiencing loss—and the grief associated with their unique losses.  Remember, too, that grief shows up in all kinds of forms; and, typically not the best of forms.

As one who cares acutely for our own professional success and well-being, may I suggest that you “flex” with those who are underperforming or not responding in ways that you are accustomed?  May I recommend that you be patient with missed deadlines, or withdrawn behaviors?  May I implore you to “check-in” more frequently, and to advise additional help if a peer or direct report seems depressed or unfocused?

And, may I exhort you to accompany your people in whatever it is they are feeling.  Simply staying present to another—in your own loss of words—goes a long way to demonstrate both care and professional leadership.  In addition, it is “OK” if your own disposition can’t really hang with or develop another in their grief.  Please, just ask someone else to do the heavy lifting with and for you; and, all because you do care.

Finally, in loss—as well as grief—there is healing; and, there is hope.  Time is an ally, but more importantly, YOU are.  Let’s make a choice to respect the emotional places of our people, while we proactively coach and care for them.  This is not only self-leadership but also organizational leadership at its best!


Bill Dickinson
Bill Dickinson
Leadership is tough. It demands clarity, empathy, and credibility; and, yes vulnerability! And, I still thrill at innovating and solving for leadership solutions. It’s what I do best! With care and integrity, I coach, advise and deliver on leadership needs & opportunities. I thrive on life, and the work I get to do in service to leaders in all industries. I am a senior leadership advisor, executive coach, and L&D disruptor.

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  1. The recommendations are as many as the feelings we feel. Even the choices to be made, and I would not like to be in the shoes of those doctors who in some areas found themselves deciding who to give precedence in the treatment, since the intensive therapy positions were so lacking.
    So it is essential, as you say, to be more present, to hold in high esteem the emotions and feelings of our surroundings us: not everyone reacts in the same way. And let’s it is a lesson for the future, let’s make the lesson that will leave us this emergency become the “new normal”.

    • Aldo, you are always so generous and insightful with your comments; thank you. The business follows people. And, as you know, we must attend to them in new and empathic ways. Here’s to new behaviors as well.

  2. “Let’s make a choice to respect the emotional places of our people, while we proactively coach and care for them.” And not just during the pandemic! Let’s not return to the ‘normal’ where process is more important than people.

    Nice message, Bill.