If you are a leader, the last thing on your mind is how the grief process can make you a better leader. When someone you love dies, you are more likely to worry about how much time you’ll need to take off and how that time off will affect your team.   It makes sense and your concern is certainly justified.

That said, my advice is to make the necessary arrangements you need to give yourself time to grieve effectively.  It may be far easier to try and avoid the grief and the complications it brings.   You may be tempted to dive into your work.  In some ways it makes sense because emotions and feelings are messy and unproductive. We may even believe that emotions and feelings get in the way of reaching our goals.  I get it.  The last thing any of us want to do is share our intimate feelings with our colleagues.

So, when grief hits us, we do what we’ve been taught.  We’ve been taught to push through discomfort and keep going.   We get the job done and don’t let anything get in the way of reaching your goals.  But, you owe it to your employees to be the example and do the work of grief.  Why?  Because going through the loss of a loved one can make you a better leader –  provided you put in the work that is required to grieve.  We become a better leader by understanding the human experience more deeply.  Leadership expert, Dr.  Lance Secretan shares this quote,

“Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes.  Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others.” 

As leaders affected by grief, grieving is a practice and a skill you need to learn.  It’s a skill that make you a better leader.  This is where the concept of “lean in” absolutely holds true.  Take the time you need and lean in to your grief when it becomes necessary.  Here are three benefits to working through your grief.

  1. Working through your grief will increase the empathy you show to other employees who are going through some of life’s biggest challenges.
  2. Feeling your own pain will give you insights into who you are as a leader.  Grief can knock you down.  Employees are watching how you get back up.
  3. Understanding your own pain will allow you to connect to your employees on a deeper level.  Employees want to see your humanity.

As a leader, employees are learning from the example you set and watching how you handle struggle in your own life.  Don’t avoid.  Dive into the process and share what you learn.  Allow them to connect to your humanity, your commitment to yourself and, in turn, their own struggles.  It’s the human experience we all share.