I recently picked up a special edition of TIME Magazine titled, The Power of Joy. I read it cover to cover and could not stop thinking about the power of joy in leadership when I came to this quote from the Book of Joy written by the Dalai Lama, “We cannot hope to make the world a better, happier place if we do not also aspire for this in our own lives.”
It struck me that many leaders are so “other-focused” and committed to serving those they lead that they often skip the step of beginning with themselves. I think we can all agree that joy is important to us personally. When we are in a state of joy our personal relationships thrive, we experience greater health and well-being, and we feel more ease in the day to day. But joy at work? That can be more of a leap for some of us depending on the culture of the teams and organizations we lead.
Why does enabling joy matter?
Joy is deep happiness that comes from presence in this moment and the ability to detach from outcomes enough to trust the process. This is very important in a work environment. Joy is the opposite of fear and it helps with creative thinking, critical conversations, trust-building and engaging those we lead.
Three ways to enable joy as a leader?
As a leader, if you can unleash your deep-seated intrinsic motivations, then you can bring that out in others. When our actions align with what matters most in our lives, the momentum at work and beyond is palpable.
1. Snapshots of Bliss
TIME Magazine had a section called “Snapshots of Bliss” that captured a kaleidoscope of recent joyful moments from across the country. It dawned on me how simple and yet powerful this practice can be for leaders.
Start with yourself and for one week, capture snapshots, whether on your phone or a notepad, of things that bring you joy. It may be easier to begin this practice in your personal life but make sure to seek out joy at work as well and include those snapshots in your collection. At the end of the week, look back over your album or journal and give each snapshot a title as if it were a chapter in a book.
By taking snapshots of bliss you are beginning to create a narrative of joy. This, as a gratitude practice for the busy leader, is sustainable and productive because it breeds more joy. The more you add to this story, the more constant joy will be in your life and the lives of those you lead.
2. Create Connections
Enabling joy does not require authority but if you have it, joy is a great place to exercise power for the greater good. See how many co-workers you can connect to your team’s purpose. People want to connect to transformational energy through purpose-driven work. If you don’t have a well-designed purpose, you may want to create a framework for building one.
The beauty is, when individuals connect to an organization’s purpose through a joy-driven leader, they form much deeper connections with peers as well because they have the company’s purpose in common. This shift in perspective enables joy. The information we receive from the emotion of JOY, according to Emotional Intelligence, is CONFIDENCE and the gift of confidence is VITALITY. What a remarkable gift to give ourselves and those we lead.
3. Enable Contribution
As leaders in today’s fast-paced, dynamic world of work, delegating meaningful work is challenging. Particularly now, when many leaders are working remotely, it takes more effort to delegate as spontaneous face-to-face connections are not happening during lunch meetings, or in the hallways as often. Once a clear purpose is communicated, schedule 1:1 conversations with team members to see where they envision their meaningful contributions that align with their passion. Then, as a leader, your job is to remove obstacles that prevent that contribution from occurring. Facilitating contribution is a core competency in a leader that enables joy successfully.
Beginning with building our own narrative through snapshots of bliss, creating and connecting others to a meaningful purpose, and then opening doors for significant contribution, is the beginning of building a foundation of joy in leaders and those we lead. I want to leave you with a powerful video about joy created by Matthew McConaughey.
The words from this video that most resonated with me as it relates to leadership are that joy is not an outcome. Happiness demands a certain outcome. Happiness is result-reliant. Joy is not a response to some result. Joy is a constant.
“Joy is a feeling we have from doing what we are fashioned to do. No one governs this but us. We do our best when our destinations are beyond the measurement.” Matthew McConaughey
Joy is something that can change the world, but only, as The Book of Joy reminds us, if we aspire for it in our own lives first.
Contact me to receive a full copy of, “The Story of Two Wolves” Mr. McConaughey refers to at the beginning of the video.