Most of the training I facilitate is with leaders who are (or aspire to be) genuinely happy; not superficially jubilant or pretending to be joyful so as not to appear weak. Happy leaders create positive workplaces where people feel great about themselves and the atmosphere is welcoming and supportive. They focus on encouraging and sharing joy.
Happy and leadership aren’t two words we see a lot in corporate culture. It’s almost heretical to suggest that someone who is deeply happy could do anything but sit around being all blissed out. So we settle for leaders who don’t even like themselves, let alone their employees or workplaces, and it shows in countless organizations that hobble along dysfunctionally or produce robustly but unhappily.
The key is to merge happiness with effectiveness by building contented leaders who also get a lot done. One of the best ways to begin the process is by encouraging self-awareness. Self-awareness is a deep understanding of who you are and how your thoughts and actions affect you and others. It guides how you treat yourself and others and what kind of leadership you practice. Let’s look at a real world example to illustrate this idea.
Leader A says he’s a happy-go-lucky person who always enjoys going to work. He has a lot of friends and describes himself as confident and an optimist. He has a work life that looks great to everyone around him but, if he’s forced to take a closer look, he’s only superficially happy. Just below the surface he carries unresolved issues that are so painful he does everything in his power to never look at them. He constantly struggles with voices inside his head that judge him and others and cast a negative shadow on everything he does. He constantly questions his self worth and doesn’t trust others. He thinks his employees are out to get him or make him look bad. He bristles if anyone questions his authority. Leader A smiles on the outside but is constantly battling the demons he harbors inside. Stubbornly self-reliant, he doesn’t seek help and is convinced nobody would be there for him anyway. This type of leader is not living a life of self-awareness because he won’t even begin the process of understanding who he is in order to move forward. He chooses instead to live a life of superficial happiness based on his outward appearance. He treats his employees accordingly.
Leader B also struggles with issues that hurt him deeply and threaten to create internal imbalance. He appears happy to his employees and co-workers but his happiness comes from a very different place. Leader B decided years ago to consciously examine the events that brought him pain. He worked actively to acknowledge and heal his past and created a plan to move beyond the hurt. Leader B feels consistently and genuinely happy because he has healed the wounds from his past. His happiness is real because it’s grounded in deep self-awareness that grew from healing himself. He effortlessly shares his joy with his employees and co-workers.
True happiness comes from deep inside you. It is a state of being that can only be achieved when you resolve the issues from your past. This doesn’t mean that you need to live in the past, the goal is to pay attention to the things that hurt you earlier in life and fix them so you can move in a positive direction.
Leaders who lead from a place of balance and bliss not only create kinder workplaces, they also feel better about themselves. Once you leave the burdens of the past behind, it frees you up to experience the workplace in new ways. It’s like going to work without the giant boulder you used to carry around.
Self-aware leadership is not about being selfish or self-indulgent, it’s about understanding who you are and constantly working on becoming the best person you can be so you can lead better. As you become more comfortable with yourself you’ll find that work (and life) will be easier. What will you do to be a genuinely happy leader?