H.U.R.T. Leadership: How to Lead when You or Your People are Hurt

March 1, 2022

by Andre Young

Leadership, whether we are talking about being in a position of leadership in your professional life or choosing to be a leader of your own life personally, I think we can agree that it’s easier to lead when we feel our best, when everything is going our way, and our wants and needs are being met! It’s easy to lead in times like these, but life cannot and will not stay that way for long! You are going to go through hurt and trying times and WHEN you do, will you still lead and be a leader that you and your people can respect?

Perhaps your pain is coming from being unrecognized and underappreciated at work, disliking your job, being “Burnt-Out” or “Bored-Out” professionally or personally, maybe you’re going through a breakup or divorce, a loss in your family, financial stress and worrying how you’re going to eat, or a serious health concern. In these times, can you… will you… still lead and allow yourself to be led? Remember, your people may be hurting as well. I’ve had the pain and privilege of living, leading, and evolving through each of these scenarios and also assisting others through the process. Here’s how to Lead when H.U.R.T.!

H – Heal

Choosing to heal is the first step! Notice I said choosing… The name of my company is You Evolving Now; not You Evolving Later. Healing is a verb; of course, time is a factor but your intentional and consistent effort to this first process will act to collapse time frames, allowing you to learn more about you and evolve while you’re feeling your feelings. Remember… feelings are strong, but they are secondary to our thoughts! What you think will impact how you feel, then what you do, then the consequences thereafter… either negative or positive!

In the process of choosing to heal, here a few concepts that will impact your life:


Healing is your job, not the job of others! If we need the official apology from our employee, employer, partner, or kids to happen… or to happen the way we believe we deserve in order to heal and move on… you will never heal! Choose to heal because it’s best for you, your life, your relationships, your dreams, and your desired lifestyle! What would be the point of achieving your definition of success and still being bitter, empty, and alone?


This is a hard point… WHY did the hurt occur? Sometimes, life just stinks and horrible things happened to good people. Other times, we can see how our actions or inaction was partly to blame for our pain. Perhaps you’ve neglected certain professional or personal responsibilities, behaved in unbecoming manners, only gave the minimal, ignoring the needs of others that would have propelled you along. Whatever the reason… True leaders accept full responsibility for their part, Acknowledging, Accepting, and Deciding what they will do next… learning from their hurt and evolving toward their dream and desired lifestyle!


Yes, Forgiveness… but please realize, forgiveness is a choice! If you choose not to forgive… it’s OK, but you are also choosing to continue to feel the way you do about your boss, your employee/s, partner, kids, or whomever. If you do choose, it’s not as simple as just letting things go. I find many people struggle with forgiveness because they think that’s what it is. Forgiveness is a process:

  1. Share Your Story
    Whatever happened professionally or personally is hurtful to you and made an impact. However, most people will go around and tell their story and pain to everyone and anyone at work and in their personal lives who will listen! That only perpetuates pain; making you feel more righteously justified to do less and be less. Be mindful to share your story with a select group of people that will not only listen, but also challenge, and be an agent of you moving forward! It’s human nature to vent… you vent, I vent, we all vent… but leaders practice what I call “Controlled Venting”; making your venting people-limited, time-limited, and evolved-focused!
  2. Understanding Your Offenders “Why”
    There are very few monsters in the world… they do exist, but there are few! Most people aren’t waking up with you on their mind with evil plans to ruin your day and your day only. Assuming most people are good and most people have enough of their own stuff (professionally and personally) going on… the question becomes, “Why would that person say, do, or act the way they did?”, “What could be going on in their world or their HURT that would make this happen?”. Of course, this does not excuse behavior; rather provides deeper understanding, empathy, patience, and a bit of a pause for your reaction!
  3. Boundary Setting
    Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength… not only to forgive but to also uphold new boundaries that work to protect you, your leadership, and your dreams! You may choose to forgive your boss, employee, co-worker, partner, etc…. but not without a new boundary. Is there a boundary that is reasonable, doable, and fair that you need to continue the relationship? If yes and they are adaptable… great! If not, it may be time to part ways with peace of mind and your leadership and reputation intact!
  4. Let it Go
    Now it’s time to allow TIME to do its thing. After a healthy process of professional or personal forgiveness… let time make “Letting it Go” easier. However, be mindful of how often or how negatively you choose to share your past hurt with others. It’s hard for a scar to heal if you keep picking at it. Gross, but you get the point!

Dream Living

To heal… only to live a mundane life; doing only the “Have-To’s” of your day… going to a job instead of your passion, carting kids around, cooking the same meals, doing laundry… only to wake up and do it until you die is not living!

Be sure your Dream is in your Daily! What is your dream, your definition of success, and your expanded definition of success? Too many times, I ask people what their dream is and they give me one answer they believe will make them happy and fulfilled. Life is bigger than that. What is your dream and definition of success as a person, a partner, parent, professional, son/daughter, sibling, friend, etc.? Whatever you need to do to do your part in achieving that definition… schedule it into your day!

Of course, it would be stressful to address all of your dreams in one day… so be faithful to your dream in its general state. In the past, my specific dream was to have my own business, it had to look a certain way, I had to make a certain amount of money, and the path had to look how I saw it in my head. As I evolved, I realized the “generalness” of my dream was more important, healthy, reasonable, and doable. My dream is to support my family with ideas and concepts I’ve created within and for the structure of my own business. Therefore, I create daily (writing or making videos), I read to hone my craft daily, I make numerous business contacts daily, and I’m sure to be consistent (the same off stage as when you meet me at the grocery store)! My dream is to also have an awesome marriage and show my kids a great and healthy relationship. Therefore, I’m sure to intentionally love my wife daily.

Are you living or doing something about your dream daily? Is it scheduled in the calendar or on your phone with alerts and notifications? Perhaps your dream is a promotion, to start your own business, have a great relationship, get a house… Whatever it is; what do you have to learn, how can you raise your personal or professional value, and what will you do about it daily? Lastly, it’s hard to live your dream daily with poor, non-helpful, dream-killing language. Speak positively about your starting point, where you and your team are, where you’re going, and be eager to win each day! You’d be surprised how your hurt starts to subside, who you begin to attract, and the inspiration you become for others.

U – Understanding the Opposition

I developed my R.E.U. Way years ago and use it in 1-on-1 Growth Sessions. The U. implies there are opposing forces around us at all times. You want to do what you want to do…  and so does everyone else around you… therefore, we are bound to bump heads from time to time! As a leader, instead of attempting to control everything and everyone… what would happen if we decided to understand them and what they needed most? The two Evolving Questions are:

  1. How do you understand this person? Why do you think they are the way they are? (your boss, employee/s, partner, kids, etc.)
  2. What do you believe they need most from you RIGHT NOW? If what they need lines up with what you’re willing to give… GREAT! If not, are you willing to meet their needs a little outside of your comfort zone; still doing and giving to the relationship what makes you feel good and mixing it with what they need? That’s winning! What does your boss really need from you most RIGHT NOW? Your employees? Your partner? Etc.? As long as their need is in your boundary of ethical, respectful, and reasonable… meeting their deepest need raises your value; getting you closer to your dream!

R – Reveal

As I mentioned earlier, no one gets to lead healthy all the time. There are also no Crystal Balls that can tell you or other people what is going on in their personal lives. Sometimes, as a leader, it’s healthier to reveal scars. If you are in a position of leadership… you know when you’ve been stressed (due to money, health, relationships, hurt, etc.) and haven’t been your best, led your best, or done your best! Revealing to your people that you’re aware of your drop-off, accept full responsibility for it, explain why, and choosing to return to being the leader you’re capable of. Upholding previously set standards and expectations makes you human and is an example of how H.U.R.T. Leadership is done!

Perhaps being honest with your boss, your coach, etc. about your hurt will breed empathy and enhanced connection. This does not imply expectations or standards will or should change, but an understanding of what’s going on can go a long way!

T – Tough

Choosing to evolve in the face of hurt is tough. It’s also going to require you learning some tough lessons about yourself. Hurt people hurt people… so chances are; if you’ve been hurt you most likely have said and done things professionally and personally that have hurt and negatively impacted those around you. Are you willing to accept responsibility for it, make amends, and accept your boss’s, employee’s, partner’s, kid’s feedback in a mature and evolved manner? Will you be able to give healthy, positive, tactful, and sincere feedback to someone else that needs it; allowing them to evolve, heal, and live their dream? That’s toughness! Most people will either defend themselves or disconnect, some in the most extreme of ways! Leadership is not for the weak… it will take toughness to heal, lead, and evolve!

Learn from your hurt, choose to heal, understand your opposition, reveal instead of rebelling, and be tough in your process of leadership; making you the leader you are capable of and meant to be. Enjoy your evolution!!!


Andre Young

Andre Young is a speaker, author, leadership trainer, and Founder of You Evolving Now, LLC. He worked as a Mental Health Therapist for 19 years, played sports at every level from high school to professional, been an employee, business owner, and self-employed, and is an author of three books, EVOLVE, 7 Ways to Love, and 7 Ways to Lead. Most people would like to EVOLVE as leaders, professionally and personally, and as Founder of You Evolving Now it is Andre’s mission to enhance their leadership with his books, on-site speaking engagements, and leadership programs.