The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic reach further into our daily lives than many of us understand or are prepared to admit. It is not simply a matter of changing the way we do business every day, or the way we interact with our colleagues and clients. These are simply the most obvious, external consequences of the crisis. It has affected each of us on a deeper level, with feelings of fear and uncertainty affecting our view of the future. Managing a team in this environment, moving companies forward through the pandemic, requires compassionate leadership.
The psychological cost of Covid-19
A crisis on the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic triggers a complex range of psychological responses, including feelings of distress, a general increase in negative affect and heightened sensitivity to emotional stimuli. Under these conditions, people look around for a place of safety – familiar people and situations that can help ease their feelings of fear and hopelessness. The struggle to adjust to such drastic changes in our daily environment can trigger feelings of grief, shock, anger, denial and depression.
It is in these circumstances that strong, mindful leaders really come to the forefront. The problem is that leaders are also feeling the effects of the crisis and are dealing with their own feelings of grief and fear. Unless you, as a leader, are mindful of your team members’ feelings in this situation, you can very easily retreat into your own survival mechanisms, busying yourself with various tasks and addressing operational issues that draw your attention away from rising sentiments of fear and distress. Mindful leaders will take note of these impulses and use them to drive a renewed, conscious and compassionate leadership approach that will help to pull themselves and their team members out of the mire and move forward through the crisis. Recognizing and understanding one’s own fears can help one to be more compassionate towards others – and that compassion is a vital trait for leaders during a crisis like the global pandemic.
How to practise compassion during the pandemic
You can foster mindful, compassionate leadership during this crisis (or any other, for that matter) with the following four practices: understand and integrate your own feelings, practise daily gratitude, open yourself to the care and empathy of others, and finally, turn outward to project your self-knowledge and compassion towards others.
Create time for self-awareness. Look at your own feelings and responses towards the crisis, and identify them without judging them. You may notice feelings of anxiety, or heightened physical or emotional sensitivity. Simply understand these impulses for what they are and show compassion for yourself. Spend some time with yourself each day, and be aware of how you are feeling. During this time, also make a conscious effort to practise gratitude. Conscious gratitude is highly beneficial for mental health. It renews and inspires and helps to counter feelings of fear and hopelessness. Be willing to be more open and vulnerable with your feelings and be willing to accept expressions of care and compassion from others. Finally, turn outward and share this compassion and understanding with your team members. In doing so, you can help to develop a new perspective on the situation, unify your team, take better care of your team members and encourage them to care for each other, and ultimately, reframe the crisis and develop a plan to get through it and thrive.
Corporate Class Inc. is a global authority in leadership coaching and empowerment. We strive to develop exceptional leaders and to assist organizations in developing effective leadership approaches. Based in Toronto, and with a worldwide presence, we have helped to nurture mindful leaders since 1984. Contact us for more information on how to foster mindful and compassionate leadership.