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Today is a Good Day: Strong Leadership through Empathy

‘Today is a good day.

It’s easier to be a parent this morning.

Character MATTERS.

Being a good person MATTERS.

This is a big deal.

It’s easy to do it the cheap way and get away with stuff — but it comes back around.

Today is a good day.

(Van Jones, tweet, Nov 7th 2020)

Just after hearing that Joe Biden was now President-elect I saw a clip of Van Jones, a campaigner for prison reform in the US and a black man, on CNN. He cried openly, choking on his words as he spoke about the significance of Trump being out of office. Of feeling like he could breathe again for the first time in four years.

As our CEO Kendal Parmar put it in our meeting this morning, today is a good day for humble leadership. These have been strange times. We are a company that works towards and believes passionately in intelligent, humane leadership. For us, strong leadership is rooted in compassion and a knowledge of our own vulnerabilities, a capacity to know and accept ourselves.

Over the past few years those qualities have often felt absent, on both sides of the Atlantic.

In March, Joe Biden gave out his phone number on national TV, encouraging anyone struggling with grief during the Covid-19 pandemic to ‘give him a call’. His losses are multiple and well-known: his wife and young daughter died in a car accident during a Christmas shopping trip in the months before he first became a senator; his adult son Beau died from cancer many years later.

Biden’s losses are public, but so is his relationship to his grief. He speaks about it, using his experience to drive his empathetic stance with others – whether the US nation in the grip of a pandemic, or the parents of George Floyd this summer (‘Jill and I know the deep hole in your hearts when you bury a piece of your soul deep in this earth,’ he told them.)

He and Van Jones both speak of and enact an authentic connection with their vulnerabilities. They embody strength through knowing their own feelings and not fearing them – but being with them. They use their capacities to lead humbly, with emotional intelligence and empathy.


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