A few years ago I was teaching a leadership course and during the semester I was dealing with a lot in my personal life. On the last night of class, I felt terrible. I had expected the best out of my students, but I wasn’t giving them my best. I explained that a recent personal tragedy had caused me major emotional distress and caused a great deal of distraction as I coped with the difficulty. I explained to the students that I felt I let them down. I had not taught to the level of excellence I expected from myself. I was embarrassed, and I felt I had failed these incredible students. I will never forget my students’ responses that night—they defined compassion. Later, my great friend, Dr. Rupert Nacoste, a Professor at North Carolina State University, helped me to understand that moment by saying, “You gave your students the gift of humanity.” Sometimes, sharing the pain and being human is the best thing.
At times, overcoming emotional distress is as simple as sharing experiences with those who can show compassion and understanding. We’ve all experienced significant emotional upheaval in our lives, and as leaders, it is a myth that emotional and personal situations will not affect us. We are not superhuman robots programmed to complete work tasks in a vacuum. All aspects of our lives integrate with all other aspects of our lives; it is almost impossible to compartmentalize, especially when it comes to emotional suffering.
If you are experiencing turmoil in your personal life, you won’t have the vitality in your professional life that you need to lead effectively. Learning coping mechanisms such as meditation, prayer, exercise, reaching out to friends, joining support groups, and getting professional help will aid in rebalancing. What have you faced? What do you do when extremely difficult events occur in your life? When a fellow worker or friend is experiencing significant life challenges, a listening ear is your opportunity to demonstrate compassion.
“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.”