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Emotional Agility is Critical for Leaders in this Crisis

The feelings of overwhelm finally caught up with me this week. I've been busy responding with DOING and taking actions and since I've had my first wave of shock and coping, I was not expecting this 2nd wave. Maybe it has sunk in more re the global impact and because I have not stopped and check-in with myself to acknowledge the arising emotions. I find myself trying to control things, arguing over small matters, constant self- critical thoughts about my productivity, getting defensive in response, questioning myself over my decisions and really needing more sleep. These behaviors are sabotaging my day and creating strain in my relationships.

Even though, I intellectually "know" the emotional process I am going through, (as explained in this HBR article) and my life is pretty good given the circumstances, the uncertainty at a global level and the extent of it is causing some form of anxiety.

Susan David talks about Emotional Agility in this TED talk and she defines it as the ability to be with your emotions with curiosity, compassion, and especially the courage to take values-connected steps. So many of us are disconnected from what we are feeling and instead are acting on them with lots of knee-jerk reactions. And some of us have labels on emotions as positive and negative in a way that is not healthy as it stops us from expressing our truth that actually allow the emotional release that a human being needs, before we can move into the next healthy stage of taking the right action. To be able to connect with our emotions and be honest that we are acting on it instead of being aware of it requires self-awareness. And if we can't connect with ourselves and lead ourselves, how do we step up to lead those around us?

Susan says, "The conventional view of emotions as good or bad, positive or negative, is rigid. And Rigidity in the face of complexity is toxic. we need greater levels of emotional agility for #TrueResilience and thriving."

Being able to feel #Vulnerable right now is a strength to help us cope with this crisis, because we know everyone is suffering at some level and sharing the load seems to be the way out. It is the base foundation for Emotional Agility. (check out Brene Brown's TED talk on "The Power of Vulnerability") Companies and Business Leaders are responding in different ways, how they show their response will either build TRUST in the community or create disTrust instead.

John Mackay shared in #ConsciousCapitalism, "When people are under intense stress, we tend to contract, to find someplace that feels familiar and safe. However, the best strategy most of the time is opposite, which is to expand, to open our hearts and minds further, to make ourselves paradoxically even more vulnerable." which he did to help him get through a crisis.

When we understand that our emotions are just data to understand what is important for us, by labeling those emotions as accurately as possible, identify those values and needs that drive the feelings and allow ourselves to feel it without judgment. To recognise that it is normal to feel that way and we are not alone, which will actually make us feel more psychologically safe and calm down the emotions. Only then, will we move into a more empowered state to think more creatively to deal with the crisis. All the fight or flight or freeze all started because we are not feeling safe and secured. That's why it's so important to reach out to talk to someone who will listen and not be isolated in contraction and for the listeners not to judge the emerging emotions we have or try to fix our thinking. In this HBR article, Susan shared the 4 practices to build these critical skills for leaders: Recognize your patterns; label your thoughts and emotions; accept them; and act on your values.

In times like this, talking out loud our fears will probably be the fastest way to release its hold on us if we are stuck in denial and instead will move us forward to think creatively and having the courage to take fast and agile actions. At all times, self-compassion will actually move us through faster instead of pushing ourselves with more criticisms. We can't show others compassion when we don't give it to ourselves, so since the people you lead will also be going through the same thing, remember to acknowledge their feelings and show empathy and help them realise that its ok to be afraid.

In summary, I know that these emotional waves will be coming back again given that the impact of this crisis will be prolonged, I will need to cultivate some emotional hygiene ritual every day so that it does not get "clogged" up and hit me and turn me into a cranky bitch!

Check out Susan David's recent TED Crisis interview on "How to be your best self in times of crisis" here.



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