What Do Leaders Do With Their Sadness?
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Being a leader, at any level, is challenging during a crisis. As a leader for over 30 years, my greatest challenge has always been to lead when personal sadness and grief weigh heavy on my team and me.

Every individual can be challenged with severe problems that bring a deep level of sadness into their lives. As a person, sadness can become a part of our lives. We can lose a loved one. Our marriage could be having difficulty. We might have a child that is addicted, and we see no way out. In these times and others, we do need to get professional assistance. We also need to work on how we handle our sadness. Sadness saps the spirit of a person’s family and friends. As a leader, sadness can impact all you are doing. It’s the one emotion that I feel can damage a leader’s capability to rise to the occasion when the most challenging crisis must be dealt with. What is a leader to do when they are dealing with so much sadness?

For me, and for many leaders whom I have talked with about it, I have found one remedy that works well – faith. Faith is a complicated thing, and I do not pretend to know all the answers. I also know that one’s beliefs about spirituality and religion run deep. As a child growing up in a small town surrounded by extended family, it was just always there. We didn’t need to talk about it. We just all had it. The world is different now for me. I live in a diverse community with many other faith traditions and those who are neither religious nor spiritual. I am respectful of everyone’s beliefs and views. However, I have come to see that a leader must believe in something strongly.

We all need a North Star that points us in the direction we must go when our very spirit is brought so low by sadness. Something must pry us out of bed each morning. It can be our family. It can be a commitment to our work. Maybe we have a mission statement that compels us to act. We all need something. This is what I tell myself when I am overcome by sadness. For me, I have my faith, my family, my friends, and my mission. If I can just be honest in my efforts, I will get through today. Sadness is a place for me that I am traveling through to a better day. It’s a desert that I am in, but I will again see greener pastures and happier times. Hope is what I will have. Sometimes the sadness is so deep that even hope is so far away and fleeting. Faith, in something trusted and real, is what has been my answer. In leadership conversations with others, it seems to be their answer too.

I feel that COVID-19 has brought a level of challenge that many leaders are struggling with. So much fear and suffering have been with us for so many months now. Also, we are not through the crisis yet. Nationally, as many as 2,000 people are dying daily. Most of us personally know those who have had it, have it, or deeply fear getting it. Sadness seems to seep into our lives throughout our days, but hope is on the way. Vaccines are on their way. We are beginning to recover economically. I encourage you to hold on, do what you can, and find what faith, however you define it, has brought you through hard times in the past. Talk with other trusted friends about your feelings of sadness. This is what I am doing. This is what I am telling those I love the most to do. In a strange but powerful way, so much sadness has strengthened my faith and commitment to finding more faith. I sometimes need it to just get through the next moment of the next day. But it’s ok. For me, it’s always just enough.

During this holiday season, I pray you may find the blessing of both companionship and faith. Sadness is pushed away by loving fellowship and friendship. I encourage you to go deep into what compels you. Use this time to find your purpose, your passion, and your hope again. Also, please seek whatever help you may need. And know that we here at MACNY care deeply about your organization’s success. Even more so, we care deeply about you as part of our MACNY family.

It’s the people of MACNY and its members that have sustained it for over 107 years. The sadness we are experiencing is real. But, as a community, we can overcome this challenge like we have so many times before. Be well, my friends.