By Michael Piccirillo, Ed.D, CASDA Executive Director
It is the end of October, Halloween is just days away and you have navigated the frightening challenges of educating children in a pandemic. So, listen carefully! Put down your cell phone, close the door to your office or room, sit down somewhere comfortable, slowly take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a count of three, and let it out slowly through your mouth! Don’t hurry to get up, instead, close your eyes, place your feet flatly on the ground and take another deep breath in through your nose and hold for a few seconds. Now, slowly breath out through your mouth and repeat this three more times. Feel a little better? How often in your busy day do you take a little time to care for yourself?
Are you familiar with the term “holding?” I wasn’t until about six months ago when an article titled “The Psychology Behind Effective Crisis Leadership,” by Gianpiero Petriglieri (2020) was shared with me by another colleague. In the article, published in the Harvard Business Review online, the author identifies two types of leadership holding associated with times of crisis and uncertainty: contain and interpret. Petriglieri (2020) defines containing as “the ability to soothe distress” and interpreting as “the ability to help others make sense of a confusing predicament.” When leaders validate and value the emotional reactions to stress it makes it safe for people to begin to process their feelings. In turn, it lays the groundwork for the difficult and necessary conversations regarding what to do moving forward.
Building off of the work of British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, Petriglieri makes a distinction between interpersonal holding (containing) and institutional holding (interpreting). He asserts, “Ideally, good leaders provide both, in a crisis and beyond” (Petriglieri, 2020). How do you provide the two types of holding? Institutional holding, for example, is demonstrated through the adoption of policies and practices that communicate fairness and by opening a dialogue encouraging diverse participation in the decision-making process (Petriglieri, 2020). Specifically, Petriglieri encourages leaders to “tell your people what will happen to their salaries, health insurance, and working conditions.” The goal is to minimize misinformation, which can create distrust of leadership.
Once institutional holding has been established it is the leaders responsibility to attend to interpersonal holding. Petriglieri describes this as “attentive availability.” More than being available and supportive, attentive availability creates a space for individuals and groups to support each other, validate feelings and to envision the future. The lasting impact of this type of holding is clear, according to Petriglieri, “People never forget how managers treated them when they were facing loss. And we will remember how our institutions, managers, and peers, held us through this crisis - or failed to.”
Oh, and one other point on this topic for leaders to consider, who is holding you? Leaders, let’s be real! You are human and you have emotional needs like everyone else. In the rare times when you are not holding others, find others to hold you!
Now, I have an announcement to make that I am very excited about. This will be the last monthly newsletter CASDA will be publishing this year, but fear not, CASDA is moving to a new quarterly newsletter format. Historically, CASDA has in the past had a quarterly newsletter. So, in an effort to bring you greater depth and a deeper research base on the topics important to you, we will be shifting our energies and publishing our first quarterly newsletter in January of 2021. In addition to sending you podcasts, we will be adding a new feature, blog posts by CASDA staff, educational consultants and guest bloggers. Explore our newly designed website to find these exciting developments under the tabs for Blogs and Resources.
CASDA will continue to be a consistent supportive voice on educational topics impacting the region and beyond. We are excited about the changes in our newsletter and to unveil new initiatives in the near future. Be well and know that CASDA is always here to support you.