Positive Leadership: When Happiness Fuels Success
We see evidence of it every day, research supports it, and deep inside we know it to be true: happy people are more productive and tend to be more successful than sad people. But wait a minute: don't we usually say that we need to work hard to pursue success, and only then shall we be happier?
Well, it seems like we got it backwards.
Does success bring happiness, as many say, or is it the other way around?
This question has been extensively studied in recent years and there is overwhelming evidence that chronically happy, positive and optimistic people have a higher probability to experience success in personal and business life compared to chronically sad, negative and pessimistic people.
What is even more exciting about these studies is that happiness is not just simply something that “happens”: we can actually work on it; we can proactively develop our happiness, positivity and optimism; and the tools are not only simple, they are available to everyone.
A SUSTAINABLE FUEL FOR SUCCESS
Arguably the most thorough researcher in the field, Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky of California University has collected an overwhelming amount of evidence on how happiness can sustainably fuel success, as well as identified workable techniques to influence our mindset, become happier and therefore more successful.
Previous research often assumed that success and accomplishments can bring happiness, however more in depth studies point at two pitfalls of this theory:
- First of all, happiness derived from attaining “success” (e.g. status, prestige, wealth) is often short-lived and might even create a spiral of addiction (subsequent success goals that never fully satisfy).
- Additionally, the fatigue of “working hard in order to become successful” can sometimes induce the type of stress, fatigue or burnout that can significantly hinder our path to success.
One of the criticisms often encountered by the earlier theory of “it all starts with happiness” derived from the misguided assumptions that “if one is already happy, then there is no need to do anything, work or anything else”. This is however simply a product of a pessimistic mindset. Happy, positive, optimistic people see opportunities, get excited, believe in themselves and in others, initiate, create, communicate, mobilize, in a word are productive.
Pursuing happiness is a dedicated effort. So how is it done?
Books like Lyubomirsky's “The How of Happiness”, Shawn Achor's “The Happiness Advantage” and even Watkins' ”Coherence” provide inspiration and detailed guidance for individuals.
Some of the most effective techniques to increase happiness and nurture a personal well-being are:
- Bringing gratitude to mind: spending a few minutes every day thinking about something we are deeply grateful for (this is also being studied as a way to maintain the humbleness required to keep the effort going)
- Making a conscious effort to notice, record and relate our positive experiences; keep a journal or tell a friend (we tend to remember and tell mainly negative things; a ratio of five to one is initially recommended to compensate for the overload of negativity)
- Exercising a little bit every day, even just 15 minutes, to increase the serotonin functions and dopamine level in our brain that makes us feel well and “satisfied”
POSITIVE LEADERSHIP: THE QUEST FOR EXTRAORDINARY RESULTS
And how about translating all this to the workplace? If happiness is making people more creative, productive and successful, how can an organization encourage everyone to engage in the type of positivity that fuels collective success?
In his book “Positive Leadership” Professor of Management Kim Cameron indicates Four Leadership Strategies that are proven effective in enabling Positive Deviance; these strategies are derived from empirical evidence from a number of investigations across different sectors from banking to hospitals, from military to real estate.
An organization wishing to engage in sustainable success based on positivity, optimism and “active joy” needs to work on four fronts:
- Aligning and engaging on a POSITIVE MEANING: this is similar to what many strategists have prescribed in the last decades (from “purpose-driven visioning” to “starting with the why”), but it adds one universal and overriding value, beyond the specific individual and organizational purpose: the value of well-being for the self and the community. For extraordinary performance, engagement meetings would not only revolve around the business – no matter how exciting – but always include an all-inclusive “happiness for each and all” positive intention.
We are inspired by the recent discoveries of Positive Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience; we find that when we combine this new scientific evidence with our direct experience in managing complex global organization and in training hundreds of leaders, it all seems to make a lot of good sense.
That is why our company motto is “Leading with a Smile”.
Copyright © 2015 Laura Lozza
Leading with a SmileTM - Bespoke Positive Leadership Training Programs
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