Mindful Leadership in Pandemic Times

Criterion| Leadership

Mindful Leadership in Pandemic Times


By Elizabeth Albrycht, Director of Marketing & Communications

In late September, I had the opportunity to work closely with Eileen Farias, the director of educational programs at The Women’s Center (TWC), an organization that provides mental health counseling and more for families in the greater DC area. Criterion has been a sponsor of TWC since 2009, and we recently partnered with them to produce a virtual mini conference for our employees to offer them tools and advice for coping with these strange pandemic times. It was a great success!

During our planning, I asked Eileen to share some of her advice on leadership during times of uncertainty. She developed TWC’s Mindful Leadership webinar series and is also a licensed clinician, in private practice for the past 15 years. Eileen weaves together neuroscience and psychology to help people manage crisis and trauma and focuses on building resiliency – something leaders need as well, particularly in 2020!

Eileen shared with me a quote by Viktor Frankl, a neurologist/psychiatrist, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, and a Holocaust survivor. He wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” I have seen this expressed in various memes across the socials throughout these past months and have personally found it very helpful. Eileen explains, “Our brains crave certainty, and we do a lot of things to develop or create a sense of certainty in our lives. These are sometimes healthy, sometimes not.” I immediately thought of my ridiculously detailed to-do lists and overly optimistic planning for family get-togethers (all cancelled, of course).

Leaders, whether of companies or households, are particularly challenged when the situation they are used to having some degree of control over becomes truly unmanageable. Things we take for granted – meetings, interactions with colleagues, school drop-offs and pick-ups, Sunday lunch with parents, grocery shopping – all have become fraught with uncertainty. It feels like we cannot control anything, which can lead to stress and frustration. What Eileen reminds is that we do have control – control over ourselves. She says, “When we step into that – when we focus on changing our responses – that is personal leadership. It activates our sense of agency, which is exactly what our brains need in this situation.”

Eileen acknowledges that we are all feeling fatigue, but this is an opportunity to create new rituals, routines, and anchors. She challenges us as leaders to think about what those might be in both our professional and our personal lives.

One of the unique things about The Women’s Center is that they offer resources not only for women and families seeking mental health counseling, but also for leaders. They have held an annual Leadership Conference for decades, and many of their free webinars focus on issues that leaders face. As director of educational programs, Eileen works with many corporations who tap into these resources. I’d like to thank her and the organization as a whole for the work they have done with us.

On October 17, TWC is holding its Fall Benefit.  This all-virtual event replaces their Annual Gala and is an important fundraising activity. The theme is Building Resiliency Together, and the funds raised will go directly to supporting affordable mental health services in the DC metro region. For one hour, attendees will hear stories about how TWC helps women and families and will be entertained by various musical acts. There will also be a silent auction. For more information and to register for the event, please visit https://one.bidpal.net/womenscenter2020benefit/welcome  I hope you will be able to join us.