More Humane Leadership in the Face of Uncertainty

Original Spanish version published in on April 12, 2020

Given all the things those of us who lead have to do –stand up and be counted, be there, take charge of things, communicate a lot, answer questions even when we don’t have all the answers, keep calm, learn very quickly, constantly inform ourselves, plan, resolve, and act without delay–, we tend to leave “human” issues to one side.

Sounds obvious. Each of us is trying to survive the waves of uncertainty that come at us every day, and with our way of life upended, we have to set priorities. Thinking about the emotions and feelings of others sounds anything but urgent, to say the least.

However, today more than ever, those of us who have the inescapable responsibility of being a leader in our organizations, boards, teams, or families must internalize that empathy is one of the most valuable human skills to reinforce, as are curiosity, flexibility and adaptability. To lead empathically, we need to understand that respect for other people begins by recognizing, accepting, and validating the emotions and feelings of others, although we may not like to deal with them or know how to do it well.

That respect is what allows us to understand how extremely complicated and difficult the world has become for many. We should not judge, but rather see that not everyone reacts the same to the same stimuli, understanding that tempers are moved by individual pressures that we may know nothing about. Resilience is a skill which some have developed more than other people have and that what for some are challenges to solve, for others are gigantic mountains to climb daily.

To lead with a focus on respect for others under all circumstances is essential and non-negotiable. Respect, empathy, frequent recognition, warmth, and authenticity –but never arrogance or indifference– allow relationships to flow positively even in the most complicated of times, such as those where we need to effect changes in objectives, goals, operability, responsibilities, conditions, and even in some situations, the very continuity of a relationship.

Emphasizing care for people’s dignity and self-esteem amid changes fosters trust and allows dialogue. Create the right environment to see other perspectives. Despite our current situation, it gives many the opportunity to grow, improve their attitudes, focus on the future, and bring out their talent, character, commitment, and maturity.

Today, more than ever, it is vital that our actions be consistent with our personal, family, and organizational values. Uncertainty, urgency, or crisis does not give anyone an excuse to be abusive, or act without respect, criteria, or decency. Empathy with others does not inhibit us from acting or making realistic, tough, or very difficult decisions. Rather, it facilitates the relationship of trust to even plan and implement the most complicated decisions together, if done correctly and fairly, and above all, with respect and a lot of humanity.

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