Happiness and Leadership
Research Backed Approaches to Leadership and Team Dynamics with Dr. Will Ramey, The Leadership Dr.
Happiness at work pays dividends for leaders and teams in the form of improved communication, decision-making, and ultimately productivity. We share the connection between happiness and leadership and how leaders can invite in more happiness through practicing gratitude, giving recognition, and reflective positive writing. Let’s get to it!
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The Slippery Slope
You’re leading a team, working long hours, solving complex problems, and then you hit the slump. Resource cuts, people moving on, and you get passed over for that promotion. We’ve all probably been there at some point in time, I know I have. Your happiness tank at work is on empty and now it’s coming out in negative ways. You become short with your team members, your give o’shiz meter is pegged, and you begin to spiral only seeing the negative.
I’ve hit that wall at work where I find myself just going through the motions, not giving my 100% best, and I began to question myself. You’re not alone and the good news is by engaging in a little positive psychology you can turn this around quickly.
The Link between Happiness and Leadership
Studies have shown that happiness at work not only raises engagement and satisfaction levels but business outcomes such as productivity and task accuracy increase too. Leaders have such an impact on how their team operates. Happy leaders, setting the conditions for happy team members will yield positive productive results. Happy leaders are more effective because of the effect on various aspects of leadership, such as decision-making, communication, and motivation.
Think about the jobs you’ve held and the teams you’ve led where you’ve been the happiest. I am willing to bet, they’ve been the most rewarding experiences. For me, it was when I was leading my crew as a Space Operations Officer. We were cohesive, built strong bonds, laughed at work, and knocked it out of the park!
Happiness Comes from Within
Holding a variety of leadership positions in my career has been rewarding and stressful. Some days were definitely tougher than others. I found myself on the verge of burnout, yet some positions, like my Space Crew, were energy giving. I needed to learn why and discovered that happiness comes from within. It takes practice.
Reflecting on the link between happiness and leadership recently led me to a conversation with Ashish Kothari, Founder of The Happiness Squad. Ashish is on a mission to launch a happiness revolution touching a billion+ lives over the next 20 years and help people live with more joy, health, love and meaning. Our conversation reminded me that leaders can find meaning in their work and avoid the downward spiral by incorporating small habits in their day.
If you are interested in taking a deep dive into proven practices to help you overcome stress and reframe your mindset to lead at your best, pick up a copy of Hardwired for Happiness. Read on to see how happiness impacts leadership and three simple steps to improve your happiness at work.
Tap the Photo or link below to grab a copy of Ashish’s Hardwired for Happiness book!
Hardwired for Happiness: 9 Proven Practices to Overcome Stress and Live Your Best Life: Ashish Kothari
Impact on Decision Making
One of the main ways that happiness impacts leadership is through decision-making. Happy leaders tend to be more confident and optimistic, which allows them to make better decisions. They are less likely to be swayed by fear or uncertainty, and they tend to be more resilient in the face of challenges.
Additionally, happy leaders are better able to see the big picture and take a strategic view of a situation, which allows them to make more informed decisions. Leading my Space Crew was challenging, and the work was highly technical. We heavily relied on each other to make complex decisions and creatively solve problems. The camaraderie we built paid us back during execution of our job.
Impact on Communication
Another way that happiness impacts leadership is through communication. Happy leaders tend to be more approachable and easier to talk to, which helps them to build stronger relationships with their team members. They are more likely to be able to establish trust and rapport with others, which allows them to communicate more effectively.
Additionally, happy leaders are better able to empathize with others, which helps them to understand the perspectives of their team members and to provide more effective guidance and support. My Space Crew was very junior. Most of them were fresh out of the schoolhouse and this was their first assignment. We made time to do fun team building activities together both on and off duty. We built bonds through positive experiences, and it led to higher trust and clearer communication during our operations.
Impact on Inspiration
Lastly, happiness also plays a role in inspiration. Happy leaders tend to be more energized and engaged, which allows them to inspire their team members. When a leader is happy, the whole team seems to be more productive, more innovative, and more committed to the goals of the organization. Happy leaders lead by example and their positive attitude towards their work and their team creates a more positive work environment that in turn, leads to a more engaged and inspired team. This is explained by social learning theory and trickle-down effects.
Simply put, team leaders can set the tone for the day. Knowing this, I did my best to show up each and every day to set an uplifting tone, checking in on my crew, finding the positive, and starting the day on a positive note no matter what challenges lay ahead.
How to Improve Your Happiness
Happiness comes from within. Self-awareness and connection to your inner voice are important aspects of improving happiness. Here are three effective practices that leaders can use to improve their happiness and in turn, their leadership.
- Writing down three new things you are grateful for each day
- Taking 3-5 mins to focus on your breath throughout the day
- At the close of the day writing two emails giving recognition to a team member or peer
I cherish the time I spent with my Space Crew. It was one of the happiest leadership experiences I’ve had in my career. Happiness and leadership are closely connected, and the more happiness a leader experiences, the more happiness their team can experience. Let’s spark that change and watch what happens.
Reach out to me on LinkedIn Dr. William Ramey | LinkedIn
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