When I think about leaders who I enjoy following, it comes down to two behaviors: joyfulness and maturity.
The best leaders I have experienced are not just visionaries, but they are mature people who care about the people they influence. They handle relationships and tasks with excellence. They carry a presence with them that they can remain relational while the world around them is filled with chaos and uncertainty. Basically, the relationship remains more important than the problem. So how can they do this consistently? These leaders have learned to live on the high-octane fuel of joy. Does that surprise you?
According to Jim Wilder and Marcus Warner in their book entitled, “Rare Leadership”,
Leaders who base the foundation of their lives on joy rather than experiences, performance, or outcomes experience greater life satisfaction and meaning.
In the past, as an employee of a mid-size company, I experienced the difference of being motivated by relational joy and love for humanity versus fear, shame, or anger. Now that I understand the power of joy-filled leadership, I reflect on how I positively transformed while being led by a joy-filled relational leader who had a vision for his company. His personal vision was to use his influence to create an environment that optimized the employee’s well-being in addition to making a profit. He was a conscious capitalist for sure.
As a member of this team, I experienced both personal and professional growth from a culture that cared more for their people and customers than they did the bottom line. They valued their human capital. Fear and intimidation were not tolerated in the culture. This leader believed in me when I could not believe in myself. He was a leader who could look beyond my exterior and could see my interior attributes and skills. It was the psychologically safe culture that created a sense of belonging for me when I did not have another place to belong. A sense of belonging helped me to replace the mask of shame with joy and that would help empower me to care for clients and co-workers with authenticity. It was the joy-fueled culture that provided the energy to remain relational under difficult circumstances.
All of us are leaders whether we like it or not. We have influence in our families, communities, and our workplace. Are you a mature leader that handles life’s difficulties well? Are you able to remain relational when others around you seem to cause pain and suffering? I challenge you to take a couple of minutes and consider how you might increase your joy-fuel or resilience.
In recent neuroscience-based research, according to Alex Korb, Ph.D.,  “. . . there’s a gratitude circuit in your brain, badly in need of a workout. Strengthening that circuit brings the power to elevate your physical and mental health, boost happiness, improve sleep, and help you feel more connected to other people.” Another study of gratitude in the workplace found people are less likely to express gratitude at work than anyplace else, with 60% never or rarely expressing gratitude at work and 74% never or rarely express gratitude to their boss. The same study found, however, that 81% of employees say they would be motivated to work harder if they had a boss who expresses gratitude.
If you want to be a joy-fueled leader, consider intentionally growing your emotional resilience, emotional maturity, and relational connections that increase your joy. Perhaps a first step could be to quiet and reflect on a time you were grateful for an experience when someone shared joy with you.
In closing, I’ll leave you with one question, “what difference would joy-fueled leadership make in your life?”
 Korb A. The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger; 2015.
 OpenIDEO. Gratitude in the workplace challenge. https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/what_we_do/major_initiatives/expanding_gratitude/gratitude_partnerships/openideo_challenge.