If I had to sum up the secret to leadership success in three words, they would be hard work, joy, and chocolate. (Okay, I realize that is technically 4 words, but 3 ideas, so go with me here!) Sure there are countless books and articles on leadership that go to great lengths teasing out the nuances of what it takes to be successful, but at its core, I’m convinced these three things pretty much capture it.
There is no way around it. Effective leadership takes countless hours and significant effort… in thinking about the most effective way to address the challenges before you (at all hours of the day and night)… in doing the research to expand your understanding of an issue or topic or idea… in guiding a diverse group of people, with a range of ideas and perspectives, to rally around a single organizational goal. Sort of like trying to put together a complex piece of equipment with no instructions while also attempting to herd cats — full of challenge, even on those days when you see little to no progress. If you want to be an effective leader, hard work is a given… so what fuels you to persist with of all that effort?
Yes, even in the midst of the cat herding and a lack of instructions, the best leaders also find joy in their role. Joy in the opportunity to chart a course that moves your organization forward… in helping others recognize, and maximize, gifts and graces they may not have known they possessed… in seeing an idea take hold and gain momentum in ways that exceeds your expectations. One tip: In most cases, joy doesn’t seek you out. You have to look for it. Where? Perhaps in the friendly banter of co-workers, or the invitation to be part of something (that may, in fact, require hard work, but is exciting nonetheless), or in the recognition of a hard won accomplishment. What you focus on grows…choose joy, and…
Okay, I suppose I could have made the third word, exercise (which is also important) but sometimes a leader just needs the kind of 30-second sensory hug that a good piece of chocolate can provide. Maybe for you it is taking a few moments to be mindful, walk outside, or make a quick call to a friend or loved one. It’s about knowing when you are being pulled toward a swirling vortex, and making a choice to momentarily hit pause and regain your footing — Little nuggets of self care that clear your mind and boost your spirit.
Hard work, joy and chocolate… works for me!