There have been a lot of different crises happening within the last few years. We are in the middle of a huge natural disaster right now in our country. It seems like every time we turn on the news, we want to quickly turn it off by how overwhelming it can be.
Something incredibly important for those in leadership positions during tough times when the public is frightened or when someone is going through a crises is the responsibility on them to manage each crisis first and foremost with empathy.
When my brother was killed, we immediately went through pains and fears that we did not know existed. This happens around the world with people who live in war-torn countries or people who live in cities that are plagued with violence. The actual people dealing with the crisis are walking through an unfathomable reality of pain and fear. Though we read it in one way as just another story or another statistic, something that keeps getting lost in these crises are leaders speaking to the humanity of them. Acknowledging the actual people who are walking through the suffering.
You look the world over and the most effective leaders that we honor throughout history had a unique ability to communicate people through tough times. Dr. King lived through a very, vey violent time. People were getting killed, he was being threatened constantly, and was eventually killed. But somehow, through all of that, he found a way to be a steady ship in those stormy waters. He had a way of making people feel that no matter what, he was right there with you and that he was going to walk through the pain with you.
This should be the first thing a leader does. You first have to speak to the humanity of a crisis. First and foremost, say, “I see and acknowledge that you are going through pain.” That is powerful. Most times, people just need to hear somebody say this. “I see that you are hurting, I see that you are scared, I see that the world has failed you in this moment, and that you have a right to grieve.” That gives people the freedom to be in a place where they can work with you and follow you and let you help them guide you.
When you do not speak to people’s pain as a leader, it causes bitterness and resentment. It makes people feel alone and makes them feel like they do not matter.
Because my brother was killed by gun violence, many people did not first acknowledge that my brother was a human being, I was a human being, my family were people who were grieving and in pain. They jumped to the debates and discussions around how my brother was killed. You have to make sure that in the midst of the crisis you do not focus on how you feel, you focus on how others feel. That is your responsibility.
We all need to take a step back from all of our debates and discussions and think about when the last time was when we first acknowledged that someone was hurting. This will help us build relationships. This will help us draw closer and lead in a more impactful way. It allows people to trust your intentions and believe that you are putting their needs first.
Crises is when true leaders shine and make a huge impact. Be challenged and pushed to empathize with those in pain and lead them through understanding and acknowledgment that you see them.
- David L. Joyner and the Joyner Media & Strategies Team