Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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A Leader’s Role In Helping Others Overcome Adversity

Leaders play a pivotal role in the lives of others personally and professionally. – Leaders commend us for key accomplishments by sharing encouraging words. And they offer support when we have bad days, like when a presentation goes sideways. Or when we cannot make it into the office due to an emergency. And we might even recall taking a job in huge part because of the leader. But it is fair to say that if a leader believes their core responsibility is to meet business targets – not engage with humans, they miss out on the fulfillment that helping others grow, learn, and thrive offers.

When you think of your career, you might remember a particular leader who inspired you. And it is worth knowing why they served as an inspiration. – Did they offer unwavering support during challenging times? Did they serve as a coach, mentor, advocate, or a sponsor? Did they help you to succeed despite your weaknesses and shortcomings?

When I think of leaders who had a significant impact in my life, those who helped me grow and navigate tough times come to mind. And one person who stands out is the manager I had when I lost my sister. At the time, I was in a very demanding role. And when I told my manager that my sister had passed, she responded with empathy and compassion. And her compassionate response led me to believe that the organization felt my well-being took precedence over meeting numbers. And that encouraged me to stay on the job. Because in that moment of pain, shock, and overwhelm, the only reprieve I could imagine was a complete change. And I considered moving in an attempt to process the pain. But by showing me that she viewed me as a human being whose personal needs mattered, my manager enabled me to see that I could grieve, heal, and thrive at the company. Now, that is a tall order! And you might be wondering… What exactly did she do? 

Well, here are three things that made the difference:

She listened and responded. 

Without interrupting, she allowed me to share my needs, fears, and concerns. And she did so without judgment. And during that time, she allowed me to fulfill my desire to take on more work. In retrospect, I bet she realized that my desire to take on more work was a coping mechanism. But she allowed me to choose what I felt was best for me, which was important because, at that moment, I felt overwhelmed and was seeking a semblance of control. And having a manager listen to my needs and desires and offer support was what I needed. It is also worth noting that as I became emotionally stronger, my manager remained sensitive to my workload and encouraged me not to overwork. Indeed, life and work are always balancing act!

She gave me space. 

When we encounter difficulties and adversity, we need space to process our fears, needs, and losses – the actualized, perceived, and anticipated losses. And my manager gave me space by giving me the time I needed to grieve. And she didn’t just say: take a couple of days off or use your bereavement leave. Instead, when I told her my sister had passed away, she said: “go home and come back when you are ready.” You might be inclined to think this move is unwise due to the potential loss of productivity of having a team member out of the office. But consider this: that perspective might be a short-term view of a long-term endeavor. Because our hearts often leave situations sooner than our bodies. And in this instance, my manager realized that: my heart was not in the office. And she allowed me to place my body where my heart was – in essence, to go, grieve my loss and return stronger.

Indeed, the impact leaders have on the lives of others is profound. And leaders can play a vital role in helping their employees overcome challenges. And it is worth remembering that helping others does not always mean solving the problem. We can help others overcome adversity by simply listening, giving space, and offering support.

For you and to you,




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