On rainy Tuesday afternoon, my 31-year-old wife died after battling stage 4 lung cancer for the past four and a half years. In her last days, the treatments weren't working, and the pain got worse by the minute. It was so painful watching someone you love so much having to endure that kind of suffering, and I was powerless to help in any way. I sat on a chair with my hands on my head, tears running down my face, trying to be strong for my two young children, thinking about a line or a sentence that could explain the death of their mother.
The whole experience was so emotionally draining, I often wonder why; why is this happening to my wife, and by extension, my family. But despite the challenges, my CEO and my staff were very supportive. They took up my responsibilities, and this allowed me to deal with my wife's illness full time. If I didn’t have that support from my team and my CEO, God knows how I was going to make it.
I read that story and it reinforce my love for great leadership and their ability to connect with their employees professionally and personally. Inspirational leaders always reinforced the collective responsibility and go out of their way to ensure their team has the necessary support when needed. Many companies are void of this; I can remember reading an article where the author was sharing her story when her father died; she said after a week her manager told her “you need to get over this everyone dies” it’s truly amazing what some people have to endure.
The core foundational trait of any leader is empathy and their ability to place themselves in their employee's situations to feel what their people are feeling. It requires some serious soul searching and a change of thinking to practice empathy, which, by the way, is still considered a "not so important trait" for many people who are reasonable for managing and leading people.
Many people have grown accustomed and accepted an environment that is not supportive of their needs, especially in a time of unforeseen circumstances. They believe all companies are the same, and they have been brainwashed to think that work is this prison sentence waiting for bail every day at 4 or 5 o’clock when their a thousand of companies who put their employees first and really look out for their staff and their families.
Many companies have extended their bereavement policy, doubling their paid death leave and offering up to 20 paid days off for employees who have lost an immediate family member, and those mourning the passing of an extended family member will be given ten days of paid leave.
Deloitte and the Vanguard Group, for example, both started giving workers paid time off to care for sick relatives. Additionally, companies like Twitter, Cisco, and others offer unlimited vacation days to employees, which could, in those unfortunate circumstances, be used to grieve or care for a sick family member.
This is the beauty of inspirational leaders; they are not prepared to settle for “what is,” they inspire their people to believe and model the behavior they expect at their company. You don’t have to accept an environment void of employee support. I always remember the famous words of Sir Richard Branson:
When Ben's wife died, he got overwhelming support from his company; in this type of environment, employee turnover will be practically zero, because the leaders who genuinely care about their employees have the most loyal employees in the world and they will go hell and back for their leader.
About Gifford Thomas
I am the founder of Leadership First and the author of The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible. At Leadership First, we are committed to publishing the very best inspirational leadership quotes and articles to inspire our 155,000+ community of leaders to believe in the impossible, while creating an environment free from toxic, fearful and intimidating leadership. We believe everyone can and should enjoy their work, but it must start with the leadership leading by example. Follow our community of leaders HERE, and let's change the leadership status quo to help inspire and motivate our leaders to make a difference and create an organization their people will love.
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