Leaders’ Pandemic Prescription: Lead Through Emotions

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Photo by Madison Agardi on Unsplash

The last two years have been emotionally challenging on many levels. Covid-19 has taken a physical and emotional toll on many around the world. Despite the ongoing devastating effect of the pandemic, organizations must continue to perform their functions. The roles of leaders have evolved, and the pandemic has taught us that we cannot do business as usual. Leadership depths and endurance are being put to the test daily as the pandemic rages on. The great resignation is one of the outcomes of the ongoing pandemic, and we don’t know what is next. The current situation is very demanding, and leaders must dig deeper to keep their organizations afloat.

The uncertainty that surrounds Covid-19 is affecting the mental health of many people globally. Almost everyone has been directly or indirectly impacted by it. Some people have lost close relatives and friends, while others have lost their livelihood. As we continue to count the cost of the pandemic that does not seem to have an end in sight, leaders must find a way to help their followers cope with the twists and turns of the current events. The leaders themselves are not exempted from the toll of the virus as they battle to uphold their organizations amid the uncertainty.

Leaders must learn to lead by emotions to help themselves and their followers. Leaders can use emotions to address the emotional traumas in their environment and sustain themselves. Leading through emotions improves organizational health and creativity. Research has shown that happiness is associated with creativity, and happiness is a result of emotional security. In a difficult time like this when happiness is in short supply, leaders can use emotion to lift the spirit of the followers. Human beings are naturally emotional, and we can use our natural prescription to heal from within. Leaders can lead through emotions by:

  • Publicly acknowledging the reality of the current circumstances
  • Being emotionally vulnerable.
  • Taking time to understand how others feel
  • Creating a space for people to express emotions
  • Healing and uniting by emotions

Publicly acknowledging the reality of the current circumstances. Leaders need to continually acknowledge how the reality of the pandemic is affecting their employees. Many people including the leaders themselves live in fear of the unknown. No one can predict when and how the pandemic will end. The leaders must consistently recognize the struggles and the emotional toll the pandemic has taken on themselves and everyone in their organizations. Leaders must acknowledge the sufferings and appreciate their followers for doing their bests to keep the organization going. Acknowledging the reality of the circumstances communicates to the followers that the leader is not out of touch with reality and appreciates their efforts.

Being emotionally vulnerable. As a leader, it is important to discuss your emotional struggles during the pandemic. Emotional vulnerability helps others to know that the leader is also human and understands what others are experiencing. The traditional leadership guide to emotions tells us that leaders must not show emotions because emotional expression is a sign of weakness. Many leaders suppress their emotions until the emotions get out of control and destroy everything. Leaders have emotions and expressing the emotions can create connections with others. When leaders express their emotions, they send the message that “the struggle is real, and we are all in this together.”

Taking time to understand how others feel. Everyone responds to challenges differently, and no two circumstances are the same. Many leaders live on an emotional island and view everything from their narrow perspectives. It is important for leaders not to compare their emotional reactions to others. Our emotions are affected by our personalities and environment. Leaders must learn to be empathic and take time to understand how others feel. The understanding helps leaders to have appropriate reactions and provide support.

Creating a space for people to express emotions. As we continue to battle the pandemic, people need to be able to safely express their emotions. Unexpressed emotions usually lead to disasters as they continue to build. Creating a safe space for expressing emotions can promote healing and create connections. Leaders can facilitate periodic meetings to discuss the effect of the pandemic on lives and families. They must lead by example by expressing their challenges first in these meetings and encouraging others to express emotions and heal together.

Healing and uniting through emotions. Leaders can use emotions as a healing balm and a unifying tool. When leaders emotionally connect with their followers, people will naturally respond and see themselves as fellow warriors. In sports, most coaches rally their teams by giving speeches that appeal to emotions. Caring and helping one another out during this difficult period can build a stronger team and create a sense of belonging that will outlast the pandemic.

Finally, we are all at war with an invisible enemy. It is us against the pandemic. Leaders can heal and unite their people by building an emotional stronghold in difficult times.


Ayodeji is a Senior Organizational Development Consultant at DeYoung Consulting Services. He specializes in leadership development, coaching, strategic planning, and change management. He holds a Doctor of Education in Leadership from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Ayodeji is also the author of the book Caring: The Soul of Leadership, which is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.