Lead from the Front: 5 Healing Powers of Great Leaders

What makes a powerful leader?

According to Colonel David Sutherland, it’s all about how you show up in the moments of chaos.

And in the times we are facing now, with everything changing, sometimes it feels like nothing short of chaos.

At ICCFA in Las Vegas, Sutherland inspired us with his stories of facing trauma beyond most people’s imaginations. His stories came from Diyala Province, a small war-torn area that endured heavy fire in the time around 2006, when he was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Although Sutherland’s war stories aren’t even comparable to the stories we face in the trenches of change, they offered up some serious inspiration on leadership.

Here are his 5 healing powers that make great leaders:

1. Honor is the backbone of leadership

During his command of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Greywolf, Sutherland and his team made it a point to visit every deceased and wounded soldier under his care.  Although this was quite taxing, he deemed it necessary to honor the lives and families of those who chose to go into battle with him.

Translation: You may not have all the answers, but you always have your word. When all else fails, you can always have your integrity to lean on in this business. It’s your most important asset.

2. Don’t assume you have to do it all yourself

If you tried to create an optimal territory for chaos and trauma it would be Diyala Province at that time. It was here, in the harshest of conditions that Sutherland came to understand how to truly motivate a team.

When team members were asked to do things that they initially didn’t want to do during battle, Sutherland realized the best way to find the will was to do it with the help of strength from other people. It turns out that when everything is crumbling around you, the best place to draw strength is from other people.

Translation: Don’t assume the responsibility of everything on your shoulders. Delegate often, and ask for help when you need it.

3. Always lead from the front

Sutherland inspired his squad by always leading from the front in everything he did. He led by example, and inspired others by showing his strength. When everything was going wrong, Sutherland constantly tuned into his inner warrior strength, and let it lead him through the most traumatic scenes of his life courageously.

Translation: Although the responsibility of your funeral home doesn’t have to weigh so heavy on your shoulders, recognize that as a leader, it’s up to you to get the most out of your team. Do this by leading by example. If you want your employees to demonstrate certain values, you must be demonstrating them yourself.

4. Let the challenges inspire you

We’re sure you’ve heard the term Gold Star families – those who have lost a son or daughter in combat. One common thread amongst these families is that often times, they would rather be beacons of hope than stories of sadness. Somehow, through all the unexpected trauma that they have experienced, they end up carrying a torch that brings brightness and inspiration to those around them.

Translation: While the way that we deal with drama is an individual, personal process, it is important as leaders to guide families into an area of brightness where they can deal with their traumas by leaning on others. How can you help your families face do this?

5. Lead in the absence of chaos

It has been said before that real leaders lead in the absence of chaos. Before battles, Sutherland engrained his team with the values that collectively made up their “true North”. Essentially, this comforted him to know that when he wasn’t around, what he taught his team, aka their true North, would guide them to do the job they needed to do, even in the midst of battle.

Translation: It’s always a good start to evaluate what your funeral home team does when you’re not around. When the right values are ingrained in your company culture, you can trust that your employees will have the tools they need to lead with their “true North”.

And finally…

With all these traits of good leadership in place, remember that it will always be the power of human connection that keeps us together. As a team in battle, or serving client families in their time of need. Remember that you are as strong as the team you create.

To get in touch with Colonel David Sutherland, check out his website, or say hello on Twitter – @DSutherland_TSP.

Rochelle Rietow

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