Being a strong leader in the face of tragedy

It seems like every day there is more news of mass shootings, acts of terror and other horrific and senseless killing. These events, which have unfortunately been occurring with greater frequency, provoke feelings of sorrow, confusion and anger within all of us. And these emotions don't get checked at the office door. As a leader, it is becoming increasingly important to learn to manage the emotional culture of an organization, according to the Harvard Business Review.

While news of tragedies occurring around the nation and around the world affect all of us, the emotional toll is even greater when such events occur in our own communities.

Here are five ideas for leaders in communities coping with exceptionally difficult events to more effectively manage the emotional culture of the organization, according to the Harvard Business Review.

1. Dispel the notion that emotions should be left at home. For a long time, workplaces expectations were guided by this "myth of rationality," which said emotions didn't belong at the office. But everyone has emotions, and asking people to ignore them is unadvisable, if not impossible. Furthermore, research from Stanford (Calif.) University's Daniel Weinberger, PhD, found people who consistently repress their emotions increase their risk for asthma, high blood pressure, infectious diseases and overall poor health, according to the report. Emotional intelligence is a critical leadership competency and involves being aware of emotions, not suppressing them.

2. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Just because you are the leader doesn't mean you are perfect. It is OK to feel confused and upset about a tragedy, especially when all of the answers have not yet been identified. Many people confuse being vulnerable with being weak, but these two traits are not the same. Brene Brown, PhD, who has researched vulnerability extensively, said, "Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weaknesses," according to the report.

3. Create an environment of psychological safety. The most effective, high-performing teams work in an environment of psychological safety, in which people know they can make mistakes and be authentic without fear of ridicule. Leaders can establish psychological safety by creating dialogue — show that it is safe to talk about how they are doing and what's on their minds.

4. Let horrific behavior motivate good behavior. Rather than yielding to hate, prejudice and anger, allow a horrific event to strengthen the organization's resolve to do good and be a positive force in the world.

5. Don't ignore what's important just because it is uncomfortable. Different tragedies come with different contexts, and people will have different interpretations and emotions about them. But that is not a reason to gloss over them or not bring them up at all.

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