In November, four out of six members of our student council lost someone in their lives. Four weeks of November brought on four announcements of death. Each one hit me hard because it resurfaced feelings of grief over my mentor's death, who I lost at the end of the summer. With each announcement of death, I became more and more heavy-hearted. All I wanted to do was stop everything- school assignments, student council duties, work, etc- and just curl up and grieve. All I wanted during November was to be weak. I became so frustrated when I realized I couldn't be weak. I felt pressure by my leadership role to be strong. The big question of November was: "to be weak or to be strong?" I see value in being vulnerable. Why couldn't I be weak, even if I was the leader? I thought it wasn't fair.
I then realized why I needed to be strong.
One of the deaths that happened in November was a student at my school. The death was sudden and shocking for our school community. Our school handled this student's death in such an admirable way. They comforted the student body by talking about grief, providing counseling and exuding calm in the midst of chaos. The latter impacted me. When I saw the way the student dean lead the students with peace, I realized that it gave the students as sense of hope, that everything was going to be okay.
I used to hate the saying "you have to be strong for others" because I feel that it can deny the person's sorrow and thus suppress pain. Now, I have come to understand the importance of that saying. If I am strong, those who I lead will also be strong. In chaos, I want to be the type of leader that brings wisdom, balance, and hope. Although I value vulnerability, there is a time and place for it...especially when you're in leadership. Just as the 911 respondent or the paramedic must remain calm in emergency situations, so should the leader to instill peace and hope in those he/she is responsible for.
To all the leaders out there, I am not telling you to suppress your emotions, but instead, find someone like a mentor, a friend or one person on your team who you can speak to about your true feelings. Although "weakness" is not something that should be looked down upon, a leader must decide if demonstrating his/her "weakness" will edify those who are being led.