Adding in a World of Loss

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in our world, it appears as though most people are consumed with the concept of loss. From the national to the local news outlets, throughout social media, the airwaves, and in our businesses, homes, communities and churches there are innumerable discussions about what is being lost during this time of crisis. There is one reference after another to the loss of life, jobs, income, freedom and life as we once knew it. As leaders, we must not deny the reality of the many losses that have been associated with COVID-19, but we must be careful not to feed into conversations that will only negatively increase the anxieties and uncertainties of our people.

How are we to be leading in a world where most people seem to be preoccupied with what is being subtracted and lost in their lives? As leaders, our experiences in leadership have taught us that there are two kinds of people in this world. If we wanted to use a metaphor from the world of mathematics, we could conclude that there are people we have led who subtract from the lives of others, and there are those we have led who add to the lives of others. This means that in every human interaction we are either subtracting from a person’s life or adding to a person’s life. The primary purpose of this “leadership brief” is to challenge you as a leader to creatively think about the many ways that you can be adding value to your people, and investing in their lives during this time of loss.

These leadership briefs that you have received in recent weeks are designed to keep leaders focused on, and connected to the fundamentals of leadership. What is it that our people need from us as their leaders during this time of crisis? They need leaders who understand on the most fundamental level that leadership is about valuing and serving people. For centuries, the single most powerful and effective approach to leadership has been the “servant-leadership” approach. As we seek to provide leadership in this pandemic, it is critical for each of us as leaders, to cultivate a servant’s mindset that will become all pervasive in our attitudes, conversations and responses to our people.

There are times that leaders and organizations lose sight of what people need from their leaders. Don’t complicate what your people need from you both now in this crisis, and beyond this crisis. They need to know that you value them and that you care about them and their families. They need to know that you want to invest your life in their lives so that they will become more successful, secure and fulfilled. They need to know that you are primarily their servant, and secondarily their leader. They need to know that when the entire world is doing subtraction, you are a leader who is always doing addition. Help your people to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As a leader, it is your role to be a positive catalyst of change in the lives of your people. Teach them to do addition in these days rather than subtraction. Assure them that we are all going to be better people who lead better organizations when this crisis is over. Model for them that great leaders, and great organizations spend more time adding than they do subtracting.