All business leaders are expected to deliver results for the organization. However the role of leaders in creating happiness is lesser understood and also contested by many leaders.
Let’s take the conversation to an era, where leaders were essentially rulers of a tribe, clan or a kingdom. There are numerous folk tales where the kings often had a huge task cut out and had to ensure that their subjects were able to live a just and happy life. Of course there were also leaders who did not really care about the citizens and were more focussed on their power, wealth and entertainment.
It was always expected from a benevolent leader to help his/her subjects in times of famines or other crisis. I recently read a story of the king of Mysore who gave up most of his kingly possessions and was ready to even mortgage his palace to fund the incomplete KRS Dam. This dam would have provided succour to the parched regions of Mysore and would have benefitted the farmers significantly. Would a business leader in today’s time go to such length to ensure the happiness of his/her team?
Focusing on happiness essentially means showing concern for people. In today’s world with hyper competition and high volatility, a business manager’s focus tends to be largely on reaching one’s goals. One cannot afford to lose business, while a loss in the team is often considered acceptable. These paradigms perpetuate eventually pushing the leaders’ focus purely on producing results. Produce or perish (ref. Blake and Mouton’s managerial grid) then is the operating Mantra.
What are the drawbacks through the relentless focus only on producing results? In my observations, sustaining an organization in the long run purely through this focus on production is very difficult. Disengagement and attrition are two familiar outcomes. What does it take for a leader to create happiness in the work place? Is it counterproductive to his core objectives of delivering results? Will happy employees be as rewarding as happy investors?
These questions require deep diving into understanding that happiness is important to every individual. The definition of happiness itself can vary vastly from individual to individual. A simplistic approach can often lead organizations and leaders to focus on the external motivators like compensation and other benefits. Once one realizes the short lived outcomes on the benefits of such external motivators, it then forces you to think what brings happiness and joy in people.
One definition which endures is helping people find meaning and pride in one’s work. Great leaders create the intrinsic motivations through instilling purpose and create empowering environments that allow people to discover themselves. And sometimes all it takes is emphatic listening. Simple as it might sound, it is quite another thing to practice and find ways to alleviate people from their current paradigms. Genuine executive coaching conversations can help break these barriers.
Excellence is a hallmark of Joy! Focus on creating joyful and meaningful workplaces can be potential enablers in creating excellence without compromising on the focus to produce. Big picture thinking meshes the ability to take people along and getting results. They are indistinguishable. You are then poised for a huge leap and true organizational transformation. But it all begins with you!