Feelings are valid and compassionate leaders understand that

Feelings are valid and compassionate leaders understand that

“Your feelings are valid. You have every right to feel whatever emotion you want. You aren’t being dramatic. You aren’t over exaggerating. You’re feeling. And that’s okay.” – Unknown

During the Covid19 pandemic, leaders from businesses and governments have been called to respond to unprecedented circumstances in which there is no predetermined guidebook to follow.

What I predict will eventually emerge from all of this chaos is a clearer picture of who our “true leaders” are, weeding out those who simply claim to be leaders in title alone. It’s important to understand there’s a big difference.

One of my favorite quotes on leadership comes from Amit Ray in his book Mindfulness Meditation for Corporate Leadership and Management.

“Compassionate leaders honor the complexity of human relationships, nurture authenticity and create common grounds for blooming great ideas of individuals.” The example below shows a “boss” who could certainly benefit from reading this book.

The other day, I was communicating with a friend who was voicing her concerns about going back to work when her state allows businesses to reopen their offices to employees.

She expressed legitimate concerns about the health and safety of not only herself and her co-workers, but of her own family as well. For being surrounded by individuals, and unaware of their social activity, is certainly cause for anxiety.

Confessing her concerns to her boss – the so-called “leader” of her team – produced the opposite response of what she hoped for. His response?

“You need a math lesson. All the studies show there’s a small chance you’ll die from this even if you do get it.”

Her boss believes there’s nothing to worry about – invalidating her feelings. This means she’ll have no choice but to return to the physical office regardless of her concerns, even though she could be just as productive working from home until everything felt more comfortable.

Here’s what I told her. Your feelings are valid, and you should never allow someone else (a boss, a friend, a spouse, yourself) to make you feel bad or question what it is you’re feeling and thinking. Author and mental health advocate Allie Burke once wrote, “Our feelings are valid because we feel them.” Well said.

I understand there are pressures facing leaders today – many hard-working Americans are struggling with their own uncertainties.

However, now more than ever, we need compassionate leaders who honor the complexity of human relationships in their actions and in their words. Letting people know their feelings are valid goes a long way towards building that foundation.