One of the hardest things a leader faces is giving themselves permission to actually feel, to actually be sad, to actually not know what they are doing. Right now, that means recognizing that with the pandemic and everything going on, no one can pretend to understand or know what’s coming next.

We are afraid, we are sad, we are confused, we are lost in so many ways. Putting on a face and pretending we’re good when we’re really not — you aren’t doing yourself or your team any favors by pretending you are. Things are bad. Nothing is normal in this season.

We think we are supposed to know how to handle these sorts of situations as leaders, but we don’t — because this is a new experience. Your team knows you are as confused as they are. You need to be honest with your employees about where you’re at.

It’s a funny thing — as leaders, we can miss so much opportunity. There’s a radio commercial for Comcast Business, where they say, “More than bouncing back we want to help you bounce forward.” We are so focused on getting back to normal or business as usual, hoping that this pandemic will just end and everyone will go back to work. To think our job as leaders is to maintain sanity, or the status quo, or “normal,” is incredibly dangerous. We are headed toward an unknown season. For our teams, we need to realize that when we can sit in those hard places, in the confused, in the sadness, in the new, we open ourselves up to more and better health and connection.

If I take a sponge and ball it up in my fist, and I stick that sponge in a bucket of water, what do I have? A dry sponge. A sponge is capable of absorbing so much, but it can’t absorb anything if it isn’t open.

By holding on, by trying to have answers, by trying to be a steadfast positive force, are we holding on to things so tightly that the opportunity in front of us cannot expand? Are you closing yourself off to possibility?

What are you unable to let go of about this current situation? By holding on so tight, we are constricting ourselves. By trying to “get back to normal” and reclaim what we have lost, we face the wrong direction. What is it that we need to let go of in order to open the space up for healing and growth?

Give yourself permission to be sad about what we’ve lost in this season. 

Give yourself permission to be confused about what’s coming next. 

The most amazing solutions come from the most unexpected places. When a leader comes forward with their humanity, they give permission to their team to meet them with their own humanity as well. We think that the job of the leader is to be bold and fearless, but I don’t think it is; rather, it’s to provide an environment for our team to be bold and fearless together.