“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim of human existence.” – Aristotle
Who is a leader?
- Is it the CEO of the company, or another executive from the C-Suite?
- Is it the Director or Head of the department?
- Is it the most senior member of the team?
Actually, it’s all of the above, but it goes way beyond: It’s the single parent trying to raise his or her kids while working hard to provide for them. It’s the high school student, gathering a group of friends to raise money for earthquake victims. It’s the 9-year old sister taking her 6-year-old brother by the hand and showing him how to sell lemonade to the neighbors at her stand.
In essence, a leader is anyone that has a sphere of influence, whether it’s influence over one person or over a million. We should never underestimate the impact of an effective leader. Shane Green notes in his article that “managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement levels and employees who have engaged leaders are 60 percent more likely to be engaged themselves. Yet, we still see so many companies with completely complacent managers who don’t care about what their employees do, and no one does anything about it.”
It’s no surprise that poor managers contribute significantly to employee disengagement and turnover. Employees don’t usually leave their company; they leave their manager or supervisor. The encouraging fact, however, is that every manager also has the potential of being a great leader.
“If you think you’re leading, but no one is following, then you are only taking a walk.” – John C. Maxwell
The “not so obvious” connection between happiness and leadership
Happiness is like a magnet; it attracts others. Like a moth to a flame, people move towards those that are happy and want to share in the positivity. For example, happy leaders can:
- exude a sense of optimism and confidence to those within their sphere of influence.
- bring their teams together and foster loyalty and collaboration.
- inspire their followers to join them as they pursue their vision and purpose with a passion.
- spread happiness. Because happy leaders feel good about themselves, it gives others permission to feel good about themselves too.
We understand this intuitively, but now there is more research to support the connection between happiness and effective leadership. Dana Joseph, Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida, noted, “Positive affect allows people to be inspirational, motivational, and respectful of their followers. For example, if you’re giving a speech to a room and you have difficulty being positive, it’s difficult to inspire and motivate the audience.”
Happy leaders love what they do! They’re passionate, positive, and purposeful in their actions. And importantly, because they are secure, they come from a sense of abundance rather than a sense of scarcity. When things go wrong, they take responsibility for the mistake, and when things go well, they give credit to their teammates.
In a Leaderonomics article titled, “Gratitude and Happiness, and Why it Matters for Leaders”, Michelle Gibbings says “the happier you are, the more likely you are to experience success. She found that happiness has a compounding effect: happiness leads to behaviors that in turn lead to future success. When you are with people who are happy, they build you up, not drag you down. Their happiness is usually infectious.”
During ancient Greek pilgrimages, the leaders of nations and generals seeking answers were greeted at the entrance of the Oracle of Delphi by the inscription: “Know thyself.” This statement was a call to action that showed the significance
of being self-aware and looking within for answers before seeking them elsewhere.
Happy leaders are indeed self-aware. They understand the triggers that control the deeper satisfaction and meaning behind what they seek in their endeavors. They use this awareness to make connections with others and, in turn, understand what motivates and satisfies them. A happy leader is more inclined to look for ways to enable his or her team members to find their own happiness in what they do, to achieve personal satisfaction in their efforts, and in turn contribute to team success.
With millennials comprising more than a third of the current workforce, and a projection to grow to 75 percent by 2025, the importance of happiness in the workplace magnifies. This generation continues to search for satisfaction and deeper meaning in what they do, pursuing that elusive work-life balance. In a recent article by Brian David Johnson, he includes a note from Julia Rose West, an author and futurist that studies millennials and Generation Z. West stated that millennials “hold out for fulfilling work. Once they find that work, they’re less likely to leave a company, as long as the company’s mission and work continues to align with their values.” Who better to help them find that fulfilling work than a happy leader, someone on that same journey of fulfillment?
Power of forgiveness
Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong – Gandhi
As the story goes, several decades ago one of the Senior VPs at Xerox Corp made a mistake that cost Xerox $20 million. The CEO called the SVP into his office and they were there for an hour. After the meeting, the SVP went back to work and others in the office came in to talk to the CEO. They asked him why he had not fired the SVP? The reply is priceless, and good for anyone serious about leadership to learn. The CEO said “fire him? Why on earth would I do that? I just spent $20 million training him!”
Happy leaders forgive others and they also forgive themselves. As a result, they help create the opposite of a fear-based culture. They create a culture where “mistakes” become lessons, risks are encouraged, and innovation thrives! The end result is that happy leaders foster happy teams.
To learn more about the power behind happy leadership, download Achievers’ e-book, “The Secret Weapon to Driving Employee Success: Your Managers.”
What are you doing this September? Meet me at ACE 2019 in Chicago from September 10-11. I’d love to chat more about leadership best practices and how to boost employee happiness.
Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.