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Leading in High Emotion Situations

Leading in High Emotion Situations

Mar 2018

On Monday 29 May 2017 we tragically lost Senior Constable Brett Forte. Our nation grieved. We shared in the funeral via live broadcast on every television network. We witnessed the outpouring of emotion by the Queensland Police Service, the Darling Downs community and his family.

Recently, I had an opportunity to spend time with Shayne Stiles of Burstows Funerals who arranged this significant funeral. He shared touching moments about how the Police Service, Community and family honoured Senior Constable Brett Forte’s memory. Shayne was under incredible pressure to deliver a funeral of national significance, while compassionately leading family members, Police Service Representatives, Government Ministers and community members.

Shayne’s leadership shone during this intense and emotional time. He was asked by the family to participate in the funeral (blog photo). The Queensland Police Commissioner personally thanked him for his incredible work.

Painful situations demand leadership. They are part of the leadership journey. But how do we lead during situations where emotions are high and the pressure is unrelenting?

Shayne specialises in leading teams, projects and stakeholders during significantly painful and emotional circumstances. So, I asked him to share his top three leadership tips.

1. Communicating with Compassion
Theodore Roosevelt said; ‘People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care’.
Two ears and one mouth – every good conversation begins with good listening.

These are such true statements. Caring and compassion is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles. Communication with compassion is not about taking on someone’s pain. It’s about acknowledging that pain and giving attention to those experiences that hold the richness and depth of meaning.

I believe that when we lead from a place of understanding we can lead, direct and guide families in the best way possible. Not pushing our agenda, but being able to offer a professional opinion based on our knowledge of the family situation. Communicating with compassion, sets up a platform to use our knowledge to serve and lead.

2. Teach them, not just tell them
When a loss happens in life, whether that is a loss of a loved one, loss of job, loss of income, loss of possessions, loss of marriage, our bodies respond to that pain with grief. The term ‘bereaved’ literally means to be ‘torn apart’. To assume that a bereaved person can make quality decisions would be misleading.

We have to guide with gentle confidence and take control of the situation. People are happy to listen to you when you can teach them and not just tell them what you believe will help them in their situation.

Benjamin Franklin said; ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn'. Ultimately when you involve people in the process at their time of need – the people you serve will become your best sales people for future business.

3. Keep focused on the end goal
So often it is easy to lose focus on what a situation means to the individual. We can focus too much on all the ‘stuff’ and the people around, and lose what matters most.

I have had opportunity to serve families who have lost people with high public status within the community; Dr So & So, Actor, Sports Personality, Member of Parliament. But, to their family they are; Dad, Husband, Son etc. We can put too much focus on what they are known for and not who they are.

We have to think about tomorrow. When the crowds are gone, and the new day begins – have we done enough to start the journey of healing? Was it meaningful or just an event? Have we done all we can to farewell not just the public figure, but the person that the family know and love?

If you are currently in a leadership situation that has pain and high emotion, I encourage you to consider Shayne’s top three leadership tips. I’m confident that they will empower your leadership.

At Joseph Consulting we support leaders during painful and demanding situations. Please call Joseph Consulting to discuss how we can help and support you.


Jason Gallagher
Director, Joseph Consulting

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