We are currently living in unprecedented times and 2020 has been testing to say the least. Right now, businesses are facing a multitude of challenges, but they still need to find time to focus on the wellbeing of their employees. By investing in their senior leaders and developing and enhancing their understanding of their own mental health and wellness, they can build empathetic and stronger leaders.

All leaders have certain character traits that allow them to steer their teams and deliver the needs of their business on a day to day basis. These traits include a combination of vision, courage, integrity, humility, planning and focus but no matter what traits they have in normal times, leaders face confusion, anxiety and concerns just as everyone else does.

This difficult period has certainly made some leaders much more engaged and focussed. They are keen to learn the skills to navigate through this difficult period as no one was trained for a global pandemic and many have had to react quickly to difficult situations.

At a time of mass change, confusion and anxiety, strong leadership is required more than ever. It is fundamental for organisations to support their staff and to encourage and build the confidence of their clients. The most efficient and effective approach is through the training and development of the senior team.

We know that leadership development and managing a team can be a daunting process even in normal times so leadership focus must be prioritised in this pandemic.

Empathy and compassion

We know that many people ‘bottle’ up their emotions and this can be a huge hindrance for developing empathy with others. Try and learn to lean into your emotions and accept how you are feeling whether it is confused, anxious or even depressed. Be curious and allow yourself the time to understand where these feelings are coming from.

The more emotions we are conscious of, the more we can understand and empathise with others. Emotional Quotient (EQ) is considered to be more important in great leaders than IQ, so take this time to develop your own empathy in order to improve your leadership.

To help with this here are some questions you might want to ask yourself when interacting with others:

What is this person feeling?

Have I ever felt like this?

How would I like to be treated if I felt that way?

We are all going through tough times and we need to bring our humanity to the workplace, particularly as leaders.

Mental Agility

The last year has taught us that nothing is guaranteed. Clients aren’t guaranteed, projects are guaranteed, desire for your work isn’t guaranteed. In fact, the only thing guaranteed is uncertainty.

Accepting and facing up to this lack of certainty in our lives can be hard to do, however, it is fundamental to acknowledge and accept this if you are to have longevity as a successful leader.

When we accept uncertainty, it improves both our mental agility and creativity. This in turn improves our resilience to any future changes and provides a competitive advantage.

Remember the only certainty is no certainty!

Never forget your own wellness

Good leaders will happily acknowledge a duty of care to their team whilst working hard for the organisation, but many forget to consider their own wellbeing. We can’t give from an empty jar!

Try prioritising time for your own mental recovery during your working day. It may seem unusual to begin with but start diarising a 30-minute slot after work for your own recovery. This is especially important when working from home as it is harder to switch off when you don’t leave the office. Close your work laptop for the evening and try some meditations or purposeful breathing to calm yourself from the day’s activities. This will allow you time to assess the day and empty your mind of work-related concerns.

I always say, if you’re going to do something, do it wholeheartedly. When you work, work wholeheartedly and when you rest and recover, give it the same gusto! There’s no point half-heartedly resting as it will not be effective.

If you’re are taking stress from work into your personal life, then try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Can I do anything about this now?
  • Can this wait until tomorrow?
  • Will the world stop if I complete this later?
  • If it can wait, then park it and enjoy your personal time, wholeheartedly!

Finally, it is important to remember that people aren’t often naturally good leaders, but with the right training, many can learn to become an inspiration to their team and by improving leaders’ resilience to stress and change, it increases their motivation, engagement and broadens their creativity.

As my parents always taught me growing up, “Tough times never last, tough people do”.