In leadership, where resilience is a virtue and empathy is a cornerstone, the exploration of mortality and the navigation of grief stand as profound catalysts for transformative leadership. Reflecting on my own grief journey, as shared several years ago in my article, “Leading through Grief,” and further enriched by my year-long immersion at “Death School – Living With The End in Mind”, a 12-month webinar with Barbara Braham, PH.D. I see that the intersections of mortality and leadership have become intertwined, shaping a new narrative for leaders seeking to inspire, understand, and guide their teams through life’s complexities.
Understanding the Significance of Death School
The Death School program, led by insightful and compassionate Barbara Braham, Ph.D, challenges our societal norms surrounding death. It recognizes that at some point, each of us will face the death of a loved one, and, ultimately, our own mortality. It asks a fundamental question: Are we giving the same care and time to preparing for death that we dedicate to other major life events? This deep inquiry serves as the foundation of the 12-month Death School program, designed to help participants prepare for their certain death as thoughtfully as they’ve prepared for other significant milestones in life.
Nuances for Leadership Growth
Having embarked on this transformative journey At Death School, I find myself at the intersection of vulnerability and strength. Armed with a deeper understanding of mortality’s impact on leadership, I’ve been equipped to navigate the complexities of life and death with a newfound perspective. The program does not merely provide knowledge, it fosters introspection, encouraging participants to confront their fears, uncertainties, and hopes regarding mortality. This knowledge serves as a bridge, connecting the personal with the professional, allowing for a more nuanced approach to leadership challenges.
Here are three gifts to be harnessed by wading into courageous conversations with our teams.
- Build Resilience.
Just as grief knows no boundaries, Death School taught me that vulnerability can be a wellspring of strength. By openly discussing mortality and embracing conversations about death, leaders can weave a tapestry of resilience within their teams. Rich with empathy and understanding, these conversations can serve as a source of inspiration, empowering individuals to face adversity with courage and grace.
- Move From Silence to Connection.
Breaking the silence surrounding death and grief is not just an act of compassion but also a powerful leadership strategy. By acknowledging the inevitability of mortality, leaders create a culture of openness and connection. This culture encourages team members to share their fears, hopes, and struggles, fostering a sense of belonging and mutual support. Through these conversations, leaders can nurture authentic connections, strengthening the bonds that hold teams together even in the face of adversity.
- Navigate the Intersections of Grief.
Leadership, like grief, is a journey marked by various intersections. Understanding the nuances of grief – the “in,” “among,” “through,” and “with” stages – provides leaders with a roadmap for compassionate guidance. By recognizing the unique experiences of team members within these intersections, leaders can offer tailored support, transforming moments of vulnerability into opportunities for growth and resilience.
Embracing mortality and navigating grief have not only enriched my personal growth but also expanded my approach to leadership. As leaders, we can each harness the wisdom gained from grief and the exploration of mortality to guide our teams through the complexities of life, fostering resilience, empathy, and a profound appreciation for every moment shared. Embracing grief and mortality, not as a taboo but as a powerful aspect of our experience, shapes us into compassionate leaders, capable of inspiring and supporting others on their own unique journeys.
Acknowledging the inevitability of death allows us to live more fully and lead more authentically, transforming not only ourselves but also the teams we nurture – and the organizations we serve.