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Leaders are Human Beings, Too

Have you taken just a moment to look back and reflect on these past 6 months? Do you remember where you were when you first heard the word “pandemic?”

Do you remember feeling overwhelmed when you realized how quickly you had to move and come up with a plan? Or the constant pivoting and reassuring you gave to yourself and others?

And let’s not forget the endless development of plans and the many tweaks and edits… implementing new protocols, timelines, stages, phases, PPE and so much more.

How did you do with all of that?

I will be the first to tell you I have had very little time to reflect. But in the few fleeting moments, my team and I have reflected on how we mobilized together to move all or most of our services online to respond to a crisis, I am reminded of my own humanity.

Isn’t it extraordinary what human beings can do when we’re faced with, what seems like, insurmountable challenges? I felt like I and my team could face anything.

Then George Floyd was murdered. I was not prepared for the pain his death caused me. How was I going to be the leader my team needed when I felt so raw inside?

I was taught by observing leaders of every race and gender that you do not show or express emotions at work. Leaders are supposed to be strong, measured, and never emotional.

The moment I completely shed these attributes was when I allowed my whole, raw self to show up at our first town hall meeting after George Floyd’s murder. In that town hall meeting, I voiced that I was in deep pain, that feelings and experiences were bubbling up for me and how I had to take my administrative hat off so I could just be me – the human being named Debra.

Reflecting back to that day, it was a pivotal moment for me. I was slightly nervous regarding the feedback and judgment I would receive because of how I showed up but to my surprise (due to my socialization of leadership attributes) attendees found my rawness and realness refreshing. I’m grateful to be in a work environment where I can be a human being as well as a leader.

What are the attributes and standards for success you need to let go of and stop modeling and enforcing?

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