I recently spoke with a senior leader in my business network on the topic of inspiring and encouraging employees in what has been a very challenging year. As we shared observations, we were both struck by how gloomy, cynical and anxious many leaders (and their team members) in our extended networks seem to be about life, work and the coming year. This is certainly understandable in light of what we have experienced in 2020. The pandemic, politics, family stress, the economy, social isolation, work from home stress, negativity from news channels/social media and a host of other challenges is slowly wearing us down and making many of us feel more jaded.
If you will indulge me, I would like to offer an effective, but non-scientific antidote for business leaders who are feeling jaded that I know is effective because I have seen it in action over most of my adult life. I strongly believe the best antidote to feeling jaded is to work at sincerely embracing a more joyful mindset. I hope we can agree that jaded leaders likely struggle to inspire and encourage others, but joyful leaders excel at it. For some, this change will be like flipping a switch. For others, it may be a more difficult effort. Regardless, I promise the journey is worth it!
How exactly do we become more joyful leaders? I could ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers. Perhaps it would help if I describe how these leaders show up to me and others? The most effective leaders I know embrace a joy-filled approach to work and life in general. There are consistent behaviors that form the foundation of a joyful mindset in these leaders and here are some examples:
- The joyful leaders I know are grateful for what they have and are not focused on what they may be missing.
- They are humble and strive to give others the credit for their successes.
- They are authentic and consistently true to who they are at all times, regardless of the audience.
- These leaders handle adversity with calmness, a sense of humor and a focus on learning from difficult moments.
- They are generous with their time and invest cheerfully and selflessly in their relationships with work colleagues, friends and family.
- They give back to their community and serve/support great causes.
- They are realistic about challenges and don’t ignore them, but choose to be optimistic and hopeful about solving them.
- They practice self-care and are intentional about taking care of their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental needs. They understand they cannot share with others from an empty cup.
- The most joyful leaders I know have strong faith, in whatever faith tradition they practice, and recognize their joy ultimately comes from God.
One other common behavior of the joyful leaders I know is how they consistently inspire and make others feel better, especially their work colleagues, and I am reminded of this powerful quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa): “Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy shows from the eyes. It appears when we speak and walk. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. Joy is very infectious.”
As we ponder this idea of being jaded or joyful, think about the holiday season we are in right now and the opportunity we have to finish 2020 well and prepare for a more positive, hopeful and joyful 2021. We can fight the widespread gloom that surrounds us by spreading goodwill and joy any way we can. We can greet others with kindness, a smile and “Merry Christmas!” or use the holiday greeting with which we are most comfortable. We can speak with work colleagues, friends and family with the desire to bring joy and cheerfulness to the conversation rather than complaints. We can go out of our way to help and serve those who may be struggling in our companies, families and communities. Wouldn’t you agree that when we offer encouragement and joy to others, we are secretly offering it to ourselves as well?
Maybe all of these noble efforts can help us provide the inspiration and encouragement our work colleagues (and others) need from us right now. Maybe we will embrace this thinking because we recognize that we are beyond ready to abandon our jaded mindset and needed this simple reminder. Whatever the reason, I encourage all of us to do our part to create a ripple effect of joy in our spheres of influence. If we lead with joy, others will follow. Only good things will result when we do.
Merry Christmas and best wishes for a joyful 2021!