Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Now’s the Time to Lead With Grace and Compassion


Like so many, I woke up on the morning of November 9 anxious to hear the final results of the election. I spent the day in a fog of confusion and a whole lot of other emotions that prevented a productive work day. My husband, adult daughters and their partners were similarly working through their own emotions, so we quickly pulled our families together over dinner that evening with the intention of simply being together.

Our oldest daughter brought along some favorite funny and inspirational material to read to us, and our grandson of nine months hugged each of us as we walked in the door, almost instinctively knowing we needed it. We ate, laughed, and reflected. Just what we needed at that time; we instinctively pulled closer to each other.

No matter what side or who you supported in the vote, you may have learned, as I did, that there was more divisiveness, fear and hatred than you ever thought there was. This will play out in one way or another in your community, workplace, and home. How you work through whatever you’re experiencing can either make things more difficult or more tolerable for you and the people you lead.

It’s time to pull closer to people.

There is no better time than now to pay more attention to the people around you. Start with your loved ones, including the ones you’ve distanced yourself from during this divisive time. Move outward to friends and neighbors. And of course, be present to those who rely on you at work to lead them through their fears, anger, and disappointment.

Begin here:

Care for yourself first: How can you possibly be a beacon of hope for others if you haven’t attended to your own emotions? What do you need at this time to lead others who are feeling strong emotions – or those who are just weary? Attend to your own needs first. Work through whatever you’re feeling so that you can be at your best in order to lead those who are going tough times as well.

Be present and vigilant: What behaviors are you noticing in others that might need attending to? How will you enter into conversations about their experience without taking sides? I’m noticing that people are all over the place with what they’re experiencing and how that is impacting their behavior – sometimes they are very much out of character. This is not about who won or lost, and not the time for you to express smugness or dismay. It’s the time to notice and just be there for others.

Listen to understand: Who do you need to listen to, even if you disagree with them? This is the moment to listen like your leadership depended on it – because it does. Listening for understanding is a level of acknowledging someone that you may not be used to. Put aside your judgments and assumptions about someone who needs your ear, and just listen. It’ll do amazing things for you and for them.

Have compassion: What will it take for you to have compassion for those you disagree with? Now, more than ever, we need to be kind in a world that may be reeling and acting out of fear (remember that fear is often the catalyst for anger and hatred). I have no doubt that the incivility we see outside of our workplaces is making its way into them in some way. Instead of condemning the individuals perpetuating it, be kind to them while still taking a strong stand for behaviors that are unacceptable.

It’s now become more important than ever for you to pull closer to people. Take care of yourself and lead them through this difficult period with grace and compassion.

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 12 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive consulting firm.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec