The Unhappy, Un-Mindful and Unsustainable Leader

Posted by jlubans on September 12, 2018

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Mindful Smiley Face

No doubt you have heard of America’s right to the pursuit of Happiness. And, maybe even of the World Happiness Index, a nation by nation listing of most happy to least happy peoples.
In any case, the business world is paying attention to Happiness for its workforce and customers.
A recent book claims much in its 19-word title:
“Leading with Happiness: How the Best Leaders Put Happiness First to Create Phenomenal Business Results and a Better World.”
The author’s prior book was "Happy Hour is 9-5." (Are these folks drinking at their desks?)
I certainly am not one to put down happiness. I am all for sunshine and bluebirds in the workplace. But, a sure sign of faddishness for me was when the Harvard business press inserted itself and put out a one-volume compendium on three au courant topics: Happiness, Mindfulness and Sustainability (HMS).
The Harvard book compresses the three and makes clear (for me) that HMS are inter-related, indeed so much so you cannot tell them apart. Yet, each claims to draw “on fascinating lessons from psychology, neurobiology and philosophy” as if there is scientific proof of these concepts. For example, it claimed with certainty that HMS organizations do better those not so happy, mindful or sustainable organizations.
HMS is different from fads like Six Sigma, or Re-engineering or Matrix Management; the HMS trio is less about prescribing how to do business than it is about one’s state of being or mindset.
Perhaps we should take a look. Certainly we do not want to be on the sinister side of the HMS continuum: unhappy, un-mindful, and unsustainable. Perhaps we already are, but do we want to be there? If not, let’s see how we can change toward the bright side, to Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.
Here are the key elements for shoring up HMS:
Human connection (recognize others daily).
Gratitude for self and others.
Positive outlook for mind and body; turn stress to your advantage.
Purpose: find meaning in your work.
Generosity (practice kindness to others).
Take a Break from Your Goals.
Hire for Attitude and Train for Skill (Where have we seen that before?)

If you think about it, there is really not much new in seeking happiness, being mindful and wanting sustainability. Maybe there’s a new emphasis in being purposeful in the pursuit of HMS.
Essentially HMS is the repurposing of ways of human thinking and behavior that have been known for centuries. Nothing is new except for the increased emphasis and the alleged science that claims HMS works and is good for you and the organization.
The encapsulated notions make good sense for anyone, working or not. However, we do go a bit too far if and when we mandate happiness in the workplace. You will be happy – or else.
Reality is otherwise. People have lives, they endure, they prevail or fail, they suffer or find joy, they seek and find or get lost; in any case they need a helping hand.
And, effective leaders need to be aware of followers and what is happening with them. So, EQ (emotional intelligence) – albeit designated a “fad” - may in fact be worthy of cultivating. And, keeping in mind the underlying practices of HMS may help one with improving his or her EQ score.
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© Copyright John Lubans 2018

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