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The importance of joy and why your leadership depends on it

Blog by Louise Drake, Director of Programmes & Leadership Innovation at Clore Social Leadership

Joy, by definition is ‘a feeling of great pleasure and happiness'. You might be thinking what place does a blog about leadership have to do with joy?

In my opinion, joy is one of the most overlooked areas of leadership development for leaders and the people they lead. I want to convince you to focus on a little bit of joy everyday.

In my role as Director of Programmes and Leadership Innovation, I have the pleasure of working with people enacting their leadership for the benefit of our society’s most disadvantaged and marginalised people. They work tirelessly, often behind the scenes and for most of these leaders life is one lived in a state of survival. And, as you can imagine the concept of joy can be one which is far from their mindset when I meet them.

At Clore Social we use a Leadership Development Model designed by leadership experts that we’ve used consistently for over a decade.. The centre of our model is ‘Know Yourself, Be Yourself, Look After Yourself’ which is the concept we start with on all of our programmes. Within ‘Know Yourself, Be Yourself’ we focus on theories, research and practice from emotional intelligence, emotional agility and authenticity, to name but a few. All of which are rational, have evidence bases and make sense when reflecting on and applying leadership learning.

When we begin to focus on ‘Look After Yourself’ and concepts such as positive psychology scepticism, doubt and the physical manifestation of how uncomfortable the theme makes people as they squirm in their seats begins. For people who tirelessly work in the service of others, the thought of dedicating any time to ‘self’ joy and happiness often strikes them as counter-intuitive. I admit that it also goes against commonly held beliefs and images of ‘Leader’ and ‘Leadership’. When was the last time you saw a joyful leader?

Dedicating time to focus on leadership development, for most, feels like a luxury. To add the concept of ‘looking after yourself’ seems extravagant, if not almost decadent. It is not.

As a leader it is your role to be ‘RESPONSE-ABLE’ as well as responsible. RESPONSE-ABLE coined in the book ‘Productivity Ninja’ means ‘to be able to respond’. True leadership happens in times of crisis and times of opportunity. We have all witnessed the rise and subsequent fall of a promising leadership from a crisis that just was not handled in a RESPONSE-ABLE way.

How as a leader are you able to ensure you are RESPONSE-ABLE? One way is to ‘Look after yourself’ physically and mentally. There is a whole host of things that count as looking after yourself, such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food and taking regular exercise, however a fundamental thing such as joy and en-joy-ing life can easily be overlooked in the pursuit of achievement and success, especially if what you do at work brings you a sense of purpose and other people’s lives literally depend on you.

I promise by bringing more joy into your life, even if it is small moments of joy everyday, you will feel more motivated, less overwhelmed, more creative and likely to see yourself become more RESPONSE-ABLE. Don’t believe me? Most people don’t until they give it a go.

My challenge, if you choose to accept is to commit to building more joy into your life in the next two weeks and reflect back to see what difference it has made to you, your leadership and those around you.

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