What does happiness have to do with business? It turns out quite a bit, especially when it comes to leadership. We might think about whether our job makes us happy, but we rarely think about how our general happiness effects our ability to lead and our future career prospects. It’s time to start because new research has shown that happiness is the key character trait in effective and successful leaders with great personal and professional benefits for both you and your team.
This research has shown that happy leaders tend to practice transformative leadership and are better at motivating and inspiring their teams. Happy leaders are teachers, encouragers, they deal with stress better, and on top of that are more regularly promoted. Besides the research, if you think about it the idea is rather intuitive; when is the last time Debbie Downer really lit a fire under anyone? The research also shows that happy leaders have better relationships with their team creating a cooperative and collaborative atmosphere where employees are more likely to engage and grow. This increases productivity and the bottom line not to mention employee retention by creating a healthier work environment for everyone. While cultivating happiness seems like a no brainer, especially with this new research, acquiring it still proves to be difficult.
What is happiness?
This is a question philosophers and monks are still trying to answer, but I think it’s important to get an idea. You can’t find something if you don’t have an idea of what it looks like. The kind of happiness I’m talking about isn’t a simple emotional state. It’s somewhere between contentment and a certain kind of attitude that you face the world with. It doesn’t mean that generally happy people aren’t sad or anxious during hard or difficult times, but they maintain a positive outlook on life. However, happiness isn’t purely an internal state of mind. As human beings we are neither brains in a vat nor islands. In many ways cultivating happiness is about selfcare and meeting your own needs: physical, emotional, and social. With that in mind here are a few questions and some general practices, which are examples of how you can start addressing some of the basic needs that we all have.
What are my needs?: As humans we share many of the same needs, but we’re also individuals, so an extrovert might list time with friends or a night out, where as an introvert might list alone time. It should also include physical needs and going deeper this question should bring up thoughts about purpose, community, and legacy.
How do I fulfill these needs?: Once you’ve identified the abstract need it’s time to get practical and decide what you’re going to do to meet your own needs. Sometimes the best way to start is to look at what kinds of things you did or what life was like when you were happiest.
Exercise: It releases endorphins and other chemicals that naturally improve your mood. Not to mention most of us feel better when we’re in better shape.
Community: Humans are social animals. We need time to socialize and friends to talk to and confide in. As life gets busy, these tend to be the first thing to go, but their essential to happiness and being an effective leader.
Boundaries: People pleasers get burned out; happy people know their limits. This means that cultivating happiness means knowing your physical, emotional, and social limits. It means knowing when to relax and take a break.
Forgive yourself: Happy people judge themselves as if they were judging a friend, extending a bit of grace and giving themselves the benefit of the doubt.
These questions and practices are just a few quick ways to start thinking about and cultivating your own happiness and improving your ability to lead effectively in business.
As your happiness increases you’ll see improved relationships with your team and a change for the better in the workplace culture because in the workplace culture is set at the top. It’s important to remember that while the pursuit of happiness can become easier, it is a life-long journey and a daily task. It’s a deliberate choice that requires daily work, but the reward is worth the effort. Not only do we all prefer to be happy, but it will also improve your leadership abilities, effectiveness, and career prospects. Really there’s no down side, so how will you start?
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