Leadership is serious business. Leaders take care of weighty issues and solve important problems. They want people to recognize the significance of their causes. Their missions and strategic objectives are posted on their walls and seared into their brains.
I am not in the least minimizing the need for mission statements and worthy goals. In fact, I spent quite a bit of time with a client recently discussing the importance of both a personal and corporate mission statement.
However, under all this weight, it is sometimes easier to scowl than to smile. It is easier to think of goals and objectives than to think about why we want to achieve them. This sometimes equates to a sense of self-importance, which good leaders are able to overcome.
As I talk with clients and colleagues, I continue to hear that they want to make a difference. They want to feel good and make others feel good about what they do. People feel good when they come from a place of lightness.
Feeling heavy and serious lessens the capacity to feel good. It is contradiction to feel heaviness when we do what we do to feel good about it.
I read many articles about developing human resources, having the right attitude and doing the right things. I rarely see anything about lightness and fun. I am not advocating frivolity and tickle fests. However, I believe leaders can accomplish a great deal more coming from a place of lightness (when appropriate) than from a place of heaviness and grave consequence.
Authentic lightness is an important skill of leadership.
If a leader embraces the principles of Affective Leadership℠, he recognizes that followers and potential followers are willing to join him in his quest only if they connect on an emotional level. Certainly important work calls for gravity, but when individuals feel good about themselves and about a leader, they want to associate with him or her. Granted, feeling good comes from a sense of stability and order. However, along with that, a good dose of lightness goes a long way.
Lightness breeds creativity. It promotes divergent thinking, which fosters alternatives and more elegant solutions.
Lightness encourages collaboration, which in turn increases productivity.
A lighter attitude helps to put problems into perspective. Lightness allows one to see humor in otherwise challenging situations.
According to brain and learning research, lightness or relaxed states enhance learning. This means individuals can acquire new skills and new behaviors when they experience lightness.
In addition, lightness reduced stress and promotes health and a sense of well-being.
This is not to say that everyone must remain light all the time, and frankly, there are certain professionals I do not want to see in lighter moods. I specifically want to avoid jovial brain surgeons and jolly morticians. However, I propose a careful (and possibly even serious) review of the attitudes one most often inhabits with an eye toward enjoying work more and obsessing about it less.
Go ahead. If you have not already done so, give yourself and people around you permission to smile and possibly even to laugh.
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This topic is covered in much greater detail in my book, Connect: Affective Leadership℠ for Effective Results.