Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

When Being There is All You Can Do

ARCHIVES

Like millions around the world, the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday has weighed heavily on my heart and mind these past few days. In all of the coverage and conversation, I’ve yet to hear anyone, myself included, come up with the words to explain how such a thing could happen or to fully console the families and friends of those who were lost.   In his remarks at a Sunday night vigil, President Obama eloquently remembered the victims, provided solace to the community and offered his thoughts on how and why the country should respond to the loss.

The President offered two examples for leaders on Sunday night.  First, he took the time and emotional strength to put into words what many of us wish we could have said.  He spoke on our behalf.  Second, he demonstrated what all leaders can do in times of tragedy even if words fail them.  He went to be with his people.

In times of tragedy, leaders need to be there. If, as the leader, you can come up with words of comfort so much the better, but in times of great tragedy you need to physically be with your people. They need to know that you’re with them. Seeing that can be more important than hearing that.

That was first brought home to me in late October of 1998, when I was the VP of HR for an interstate gas pipeline company. The day before Halloween, we learned that one of our area managers had lost three grandsons to a carbon monoxide leak as they slept in their home in Mississippi.  As we’ve been reminded so terribly this week, losing children is one of the hardest things to bear. When we heard the news, my boss arranged for the company plane to fly me, our senior operating executives and another HR exec to Mississippi for the funeral the next day.  I didn’t want to go.  I was scared that I wouldn’t know what to say or do.  Cathy, my boss, practically insisted though, that I make the trip.  Our delegation went to Mississippi on behalf of hundreds of others who couldn’t.  That was part of our job as leaders in the company.

It was the right call and was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done to be there with the family during the final visitation for those three boys and to be there at the graveside.  I have no recollection of what I said to them that day, only what it was like to look the grandparents in the eye and to offer my sorrow and an embrace.

There will be times, as a leader and as a human being, when words fail you. It’s at those times that being there for those in need is all you can do. It’s likely what matters most.

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.