Does being a leader make you happy?

Nelson Mandela quoteThis is the question I’ve been pondering this past week after spending six days with leaders from across the country at the Queen’s Leadership Course.

It was an amazing but exhausting week, where we learned about team building, transformational leadership and how to be a good coach.

Transformational leadership is elevating others by inspiring people to see the importance of what they do so they want to do it better. It often results in change through a shared vision. Think of leaders like Nelson Mandela, the great basketball coach Phil Jackson and Mikhail Gorbachev.

With this definition in mind, you would think the obvious answer would be yes. That helping people develop and elevating them to new heights would result in immense personal satisfaction and happiness.

But Mandela and Gorbachev also had to endure incredible hardships, stress and conflict in their lives.

It made me think of two of my most recent leadership experiences, both non-work related. I would probably rate my performance in both these cases as a 4. Sure, I shared my vision, I worked hard, I led a team to the best of my ability, but in the end, after my leadership stint was over, there was very little change. When I ask myself the tough question, did I elevate others, the answer is no. I failed as a leader.

I also didn’t enjoy the one experience at all. Instead of being energized, I felt drained most of the time, frustrated and unhappy.

So, back to my original question. Does being a leader make you happy? I’m not sure I can answer that question, but I do know that some of the things they reinforced this past week does make me happy and more important, makes the world a happier place. Things like caring for others, taking the time to say hello and ask people how they are doing, what’s important in their lives. It’s the little things that are the hallmark of a great leader and the good news is, we all have the ability to be great leaders.

This week’s #HappyAct is to think of one small act you can do this week to help elevate others. Tell me what you think. Does being a leader make you happy? Leave a comment. Here are some inspirational quotes from the week to inspire you.

“Leadership is not about taking control; it’s about helping others make better decisions.”

“People respond remarkably to what you say and how you treat them.”

“You don’t need to be inspiring all the time. Be inspiring at the right time.”

“Great leaders elevate their followers; terrible leaders demean their followers and make them feel smaller.”


4 thoughts on “Does being a leader make you happy?

  1. I think when you take on a leadership role with the intent of doing it to your best ability then you are taking on a great responsibility and that can create stress. Also as a leader you have other people looking up to you and you are right when you say the little things matter more. So even though you might be so so busy you still have to make time for these small gestures that can have a big impact on others. Leaders have to be prepared to endure greater scrutiny from the public and that can be hard too; every decision you make is open to criticism.

    To answer your question, no I don’t think being a leader makes you happy but it can give you satisfaction, especially when your decisions have a positive impact on others and maybe make the world a better place.

  2. What a great question.

    Perhaps it was the crowd you were leading that made you frustrated? I wonder if you had a group that wanted to be led if being the leader would be a ‘happy’ position to be in?

    Does being a leader make you happy?

    In my experience, the happiness in being a leader comes from the feeling that you can have a big impact on how the world around is shaped.

    1. Great comments, Jill and Matt. They talked quite a bit in our course how being a leader subjects you to greater scrutiny. I think it’s also a question of perspective. While great leaders have a big impact on the world around us, for some of us, the impact of our leadership may be smaller but just as rewarding. Helping a person develop or grow, for example. A lot of what they talked about this past week struck me as a parent. Sometimes too our mark as leaders may not be known for years to come. Someone asked if Obama was a great leader, and our instructor basically said it’s too soon to tell. Keep the comments coming!

  3. Pingback: Best happy acts of 2015 | Happy Act

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