One of the reasons why I think leadership is so difficult is because leaders look at problem solving differently than most people. In my experience, not only are leader comfortable identifying and solving problems, they are happiest when they are doing so. Because they find this type of work to be fulfilling, they are continually (often unconsciously) seeking new problems and opportunities “to make things better.” The reason this approach can be the source of conflict is that most people do not look at problem solving, change and innovation in the same way. As a result, the very approach to life that brings satisfaction to a leader can inspire resentment in followers who feel their leaders are unaware of how hard they are working and the price they feel they are paying on a personal and professional level.
To create a culture where people are joyful requires a greater commitment by leaders to building relationships. If a “good life” can be defined by the quality of relationships one has in life, the same could be true for life at work. When leaders fail to recognize this, they often find their ability to lead well diminishes over time versus growing over time. This for numerous reasons that include the reality that it is difficult to lead people into uncertain situations when you do not know them well enough to know when they need to be encouraged, redirected or given space. When people feel continually pushed from one project to the next, in an environment when they do not sense they are valued, their ability to stay motivated, engaged and joyful diminishes.
Three things I believe leaders need to understand to help build a culture of joyfulness include the following:
1. Be Aware – Your enthusiasm for problem solving is likely not shared by others as much as you might hope. It is common to see the enthusiasm of a leader fade as a project nears completion. In fact, as a project or program is nearing completion, leaders are often already dreaming of the next opportunity. Keep in mind they joy you feel when launching an effort is likely similar to the joy others feel when a project is nearing completion.
2. Invest In Relationships – Leaders cannot lead effectively when they do not know the needs of those they are leading. To create a culture of joyfulness in difficult times it is imperative that you are investing time and effort into others when times are good.
3. Celebrate/Recognize – Cultivate your ability to see what is working as well as being able to identify areas of improvement. This balanced approach provides a clearer perspective of reality. One important aspect of building this type of culture is celebrating the efforts of others. While I cannot always celebrate the “win”, I can celebrate the effort. This type of relationship building is essential for a culture of cooperation and joyfulness.