Joy at work seems like such a simple idea—just make everyone happy, right? No! Embracing joy at work means fighting joy's greatest enemy: fear. And unfortunately, leadership based on fear is the status quo for nearly every organization and bureaucracy. Choosing to lead with joy is a big shift.
At Interface, fear of our shareholders drove us to ship inferior product. Fear that our programmers would screw up drove us to invent arcane systems of trying to test quality into their work. Fear that we would ship two weeks after our competitors drove us to cut every possible corner just to get something out there that simply disappointed everyone. Fear that we weren't working hard enough or smart enough led to incessant demands for overtime.
And at other companies, what is the reason for...
Approvals needed from leadership on all decisions? Fear that your people will screw up, that you don't have the right people?
Long memos with confining and condescending instructions? Fear that your people won't get it, that they don't care enough?
Even little moments in the workplace reek of fear. When a senior leader cuts off someone speaking at a meeting? That's the leader's fear—of being an imposter, of needing to prove his or her authority, of being "found out," or of being outshone and losing rank.
Every written formal memo about working hours, workplace attire, etc. Yep, fear.
Every time we make a new process rule because of one bad outcome— fear.
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it's possible to create an organization free from fear, where people bring their whole selves to work and the full range of their potential, energy, and talent is put to the company's benefit. (That's what you're paying for, isn't it?)
The bad news is, the path there is anything but comfortable. It involves letting go of most of what you've learned or experienced. It means changing what you believe about the people who work for you and with you.
The best news, though, is it means getting back to your own dreams of what 'you' always thought was possible. It means getting back to the truest form of who you really are and what you always believed you could become. It means getting back to your own very personal definition of joy. One you'd be proud to have written on your gravestone.
This book won't be a blueprint for a one-size-fits-all model of leadership, or for explaining which of the twenty-six leadership styles you exhibit. It is my goal to make a stand for 'leading with joy' as something that you not only can do but something you MUST do. I will use tangible and practical examples from our experience at Menlo (and those of a few other companies) to show you that a more joyful, more human, more fulfilling path to leadership is not only attainable but imperative for survival. By questioning business as usual and envisioning the organization you truly want to work for or build, you'll also define the kind of life you want to lead—at work, outside of work, all together in its messy complex glory.
I want to make sure you're not taking the scenic road to work, driving back roads because you can't face the idea of showing up at the office and going through another day of disillusionment. Let's get you to a place where you bound inside those doors with enthusiasm and energy and share that with others as the leader. Where those on your team can become leaders in their own right because you've built a culture in which leadership can thrive. Let's make you a Chief Joy Officer, which isn't so much a job title as a state of mind and a way of being a different kind of leader.
I started on this leadership transformation many years ago at Interface Systems, when I decided to not let myself drift into disillusionment and escapism. I continued this journey when I, along with my cofounders, started Menlo Innovations in 2001. And I am still very much on this journey, as you'll see in these pages.
Part of embracing the joyful path to leadership means constantly assessing and pledging to do better, to improve one another and ourselves. I hope to enroll you in this work too, so that together we can build pockets of joy in business all around the world.
What Do You Believe?
It may seem idealistic, but a journey to joyful leadership starts with what you believe. You may have kept these personal beliefs buried for so long that they are no longer familiar. I can assure you...they are still there, waiting to be unlocked and unleashed.
You've probably encountered this quote from Gandhi:
'Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.'