By Callie Albaugh, MA, LMFT
When we approach an Unknown path on our journey, we look toward those in authority to lead us through the darkened journey. Parents lead their families through the trials and triumphs of life. Executive leadership in companies or in our government make decisions and guide us through uncharted territories. Journeys of Unknown can amplify Anxiety and impact how we function effectively, on our own and as a team. We all need leaders in our lives to guide us through the ups and downs of the journey to ensure our safety, our sanity, and our partnership. Families, business teams, groups of all shapes and sizes require strong leaders to guide them. This pandemic got me thinking – What makes a great leader so great? How does a strong leader calm their followers and guide them effectively? The following five points are a summarized list taken from my interactions with parents and families, government leaders, and my own household.
- Structure – Strong leaders provide strong structure for us to operate within. Effective leaders create a solid foundation and inform their people of what the structure is, what it holds, and how far it expands. For example, aligned parents inform their children how their school-day at home will look for the day – including the timeframe, their options of choosing, and how they will be supported by the parents throughout the day. Structure creates safety – when we understand the rules and guidelines, we know how to safely interact with the world around us.
- Inclusion of Others’ Voices – Strong leaders listen to others’ opinions and include those in the decision-making process. Note, this does not mean that the leader takes each person’s opinion and makes that the final decision. It is important for the ‘team’ to be heard and for the leader to be aware of how the team is thinking and functioning, what is important to each member of the team. For example, parents may ask their children where they would like to go for vacation and each child may present with a different idea. The aligned parents make the final decision after hearing from each child, and then deciding based on those opinions and other factors (finances, reality, length) of time, etc.). Each person in the group deserves to have their voice heard.
- Plan B (And C, And D…) – Strong leaders have a backup plan. We can plan, plan, and plan and still have it all fall through for various reasons. When putting together a plan, it’s important to have backup plans and inform your team about what will should the original plan fall through. When your original plan doesn’t come to fruition, backup plans help re-affirm the team’s structure and minimize Anxiety.
- Acknowledgement – Strong leaders acknowledge the team’s efficacy, perspective, and functioning. This requires building skills of validation and reflection of each person’s experience and emotions. Validation and reflection informs the speaker that you are listening and understand their perspective. Remember, validating someone does not mean that you necessarily agree or like their perspective; it does mean that you understand their viewpoint and its validity.
- The Check-In – Strong leaders check in with their team after implementing a plan. They ask for feedback and make changes accordingly if necessary. Leaders acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly and weather through the storms that inevitably occur when a plan is in place. Circling back to your team is key in wholly leading your team and solidifying your place in leadership.
Teams work well together when they are guided by leaders rooted in these five elements. Whether you are a leader of a business, non-profit, department team, or parent, as we continue forward in this unknown COVID-era, we rely heavily on these leadership qualities to ensure the physical, emotional, and spiritual safety of everyone.
One last thought – Good leaders also reach out to those around them for support and feedback. Good leaders do not assume that they know all and that those they are leading have little or nothing to contribute. If you are in a leadership role, now as much as ever, we are in need of leaning into each other to make it through COVID 19 and the aftereffects. Open yourself to being supported by others and receiving feedback about your leadership. If you do, you may find that your confidence will grow and your leadership will be even more respected.