Helena Clayton | Joy and Leadership And Thich Naht Hanh
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Joy and Leadership And Thich Naht Hanh

09 Jun 2016, Posted by Helena Clayton in Work as Love in Action

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership culture recently. And you know that I’m interested in the idea of how leadership practices can be more loving.

Well, I read How to Love  by Thich Naht Hanh, a book ostensibly about our close relationships but one that also had something powerful for me on leadership culture.

He says:

…’if we take good care of ourselves, we help everybody.  We stop being a source of suffering to the world and become a reservoir of joy and freshness.  Here and there are people who know how to take care of themselves…’

Are you one of those people?  Do you make sure your own tank is filled so that you have plenty to give others?  It made sense to me when I read once that at times of stress we give away first the things that nourish us so that, before we realise it we’re on our bones and wondering why everything feels so hard.   I know that when I am in connection with my own heart and my own joy then I can be more tolerant of others’ differences, be more accepting of irritations, be more compassionate. And be more accepting of myself too.

And so he encourages us to …’create moments of joy and happiness for your own nourishment; then you have something to offer the other person’…

Working on a leadership programme recently, in the middle of a lots of heady-y material, we asked people to go on a short walk in pairs and talk about what sparked joy in their lives.  At the end of the programme – and maybe this is no surprise – this was the element of the programme that they talked most about.

(What would you have talked about in that conversation?)

I’ve written in a previous blog called Has Love Gone Underground how questions like this can feel radical for leaders, to be asked about things that are deeply personal.  Conversations about the heart have become buried deep beneath the surface.  And yet they are so important that I feel they must be asked.  not least because doing so is an act of love for ourselves and we have to start there.

And then, following the theme of intention,  Thich Naht Hanh says something that delighted me:

…’ask yourself, who can I make smile this morning?  Are you able to make the other person smile.  Are you able to increase their confidence and enthusiasm?  Sometimes a kind word is enough to help someone blossom like a flower …you can be the sunshine for another person’…

So there it is, leader-as-sunshine!  Seeing it as our responsibility in a relationship to bring joy to the other person, he asks us to create an intention for that.  I tried it in my own relationship this weekend and I felt it brought happiness and connection.  So why wouldn’t this be great advice for a leader?  Because a leader isn’t only responsible for managing results but managing mood too.

And so if you feel up for experimenting with joy and sunshine in your life and your leadership, I’d love to hear about it.

And if you think someone you know might like this post, please feel free to share.

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