Leaders are decoders, having to navigate common tricky leadership blind spots and decipher unwritten rules that can lead to no good in the workplace. There are rarely clear signs directing leaders on exactly what to do next.
Unless if you're Pink, otherwise known as singer/songwriter/entertainer Alecia Beth Moore. At a recent concert in Brisbane, Australia, Pink spotted 14-year old Leah Murphy with a sign that said she'd "lost her beautiful mother last month", and wanted a hug.
Pink stopped the concert and went to comfort the girl, as seen in this viral video:
This isn't the first time the pop-heroine has used her platform in an emotionally intelligent way. She once stopped a concert in Vancouver so a gifted 12-year old could live out a dream and sing with Pink, sending a message of female empowerment rippling across the stadium. In May, she gave this brilliant response to a troll who tweeted "that she looked so old she should be called purple":
I am of the mindset that it's a blessing to grow old. That if your face has lines around your eyes and mouth it means you've laughed a lot. I pray I look older in 10 years, cause that will mean I'm alive.-- P!nk (@Pink) May 16, 2018
She's an in-touch leader, aware of the good she can do with her leadership platform. It got me thinking: Leaders must read their audiences, and rarely will they see one of them holding up a sign indicating that something troubling is going on in their life. Those with emotional intelligence are adept at reading and sensing such things.
They care enough to pay attention and look for signs far more subtle than those on a poster board, like employees suddenly withdrawn, acting out of sorts, or never appearing joyful or having a laugh at work. Such leaders know their job isn't just to get the right people on the bus, but to get all the people on the bus right.
And they know when something just isn't right with an employee.
If you ever get that sense, you should gently and thoughtfully ask. Psychologist Joni Johnston suggests a sequence for checking in on an employee who might be depressed or have a serious issue going on behind the scenes. First state your concern, focusing your comments on observable behavior changes ("I noticed you don't laugh much or say much anymore at the weekly meetings and that's definitely not like you"). Then, you can offer an empathetic ear and refer the employee to expert help if appropriate.
An employee that's suffering from a personal issue isn't likely to come to you with it unless you consistently role model enough empathy to make them feel comfortable going to you in tough situations.
Care enough to spend time looking for signs in the crowd. You'll be a standout, show-stopping leader if you do.