Let me admit it right up front–this is a bias. I believe that fundamentally unhappy people make poor leaders. This statement might cause you to pause. If we were having a conversation, I’d be able to see your reaction in your eyes, and I’d repeat myself for emphasis. So let me repeat. I believe that fundamentally unhappy people make poor leaders.
In an age of cynicism, the importance of happiness as a key part of the human condition gets lost or overlooked. Young children are envied for their happiness, but it is credited to their ignorance of the world’s harsh realities. "It’s easy for them," we say. "They don’t have a care in the world. Oh, to be like that again. I know too much to go around happy all the time." I’m willing to admit that there is some truth in that statement. Sometimes ignorance makes it easier to be happy, but the opposite isn’t true. You don’t have to be ignorant in order to be happy. What so many people seem to lose sight of is that happiness, much like ignorance, isn’t a state, it is a choice. If you are ignorant, you can choose to get smarter. If you are unhappy, you can choose to become happy. Choosing happiness doesn’t mean that you banish all concerns and troubles. Happiness simply means that you understand all the sides of an issue, good and bad, and choose to be happy anyway.
What, you may be asking, does this have to do with leadership? Everything, I think. Happiness is born from optimism. Optimism is embedded in beliefs such as "Problems can be solved," "Good ultimately triumphs over evil," and "Joy is a birthright of all individuals." Without an underlying positive belief system, leadership rings hollow. You cannot inspire people to try again if you don’t really believe that success is possible. You can’t comfort people during tough times if you don’t believe that tough times pass. You can’t lead if you don’t have faith in an uncertain future.
So, are you happy? Don’t worry if your answer is no. You can choose a different answer when you ask yourself the question again, and then get to work to make your answer true. The people around you will be glad you gave this question a second look.