I want you to consider this statement: 

Happy leaders create happy followers. 

Our happiness as leaders affects every aspect of our business and our lives. 

Still, there are a lot of people out there (including myself at one point), who believe that happiness in the workplace is dangerous. 

Is it though? 

Of course not! 

Being healthy, happy, wealthy, and wise doesn’t have to be a myth. You need to choose it and pursue it for your own good, but also so the ripples of your happiness spread through the workplace and in all other aspects of your life. 

This isn’t just some touchy-feely stuff; today, we’re looking intentionally at happiness influence and answering the question: do happy leaders lead better?

Happy leaders do lead better because they create a more motivated and pleasant workplace. This, in turn, increases productivity and overall health of leaders and team mates. Being a happy leader is intentional and requires the following steps: 

  1. Getting clear and deciding to pursue happiness
  2. Dropping perfectionism
  3. Enjoying little wins
  4. Focusing on gratitude
  5. Embracing yourself

Let’s dig in, friends, and see if we can embrace happiness in leadership. 

image happy leaders banner

Why Is Being A Happy Leader So Important?

Jobs, everyday life, marketplaces, and everything out there is hard enough to deal with as it is, why do you want to add to the hardship by choosing to be unhappy?

This is exactly what you’re doing when you buy into a false perception of leadership. 

Leadership doesn’t have to be hard and come from a place of “meanness” or “bossiness”.

Working your ass off doesn’t mean you need to be exhausted and dread your job. 

Ask yourself these questions; 

  • Aren’t you tired of being in pain?
  • Do you tire of creating pain, consciously or unconsciously?
  • Aren’t you tired of reacting to the pain of others?

It’s time to drop some of that conditioning and beliefs on what leadership needs to be. 

If it’s not hard, I’m not working hard enough. Wrong. Here’s the truth:

  • It doesn’t have to be hard.
  • You don’t have to be lonely.
  • It can be fun and easy. 

The Leadership Quarterly published a study on over 300 leaders and their businesses and team mates in relation to tactics related to leader happiness in the workplace. 

They found that happier leaders led to a happier workplace which then led to a more effective workplace. 

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. 

Happiness At Work Definition: What Are You Looking For?

Four words pop up when people talk about happiness: 





These words don’t equate to lazy, there’s happiness to be had in contentment and satisfaction. You need to be content and satisfied with the work you’ve done and the person you are. 

Most of the time, unhappiness comes with a disconnect between who you are and the leader you’re pretending to be. 

Pleasure and joy come from enjoying the work you do. 

Maybe you think you’re already happy. Cool, good for you! Please drop a comment and share how you’re staying happy as a leader. 

But maybe you’re not. 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is it fun to be you?
  • Is it fun to go to your office?
  • Do you have fun in the relationships you’re in?
  • Is your financial situation fun?
  • Is it fun to express your abilities in this world the way that you are?

Better yet, ask yourself the opposite: Does it suck?

I’ve always promised to be straight with you. Does it suck to be you, or be at your office, etc?

Be honest. 

If it does to any degree, I’ve got a surprise for you: 

Being a leader doesn’t have to suck. 

If your life and work do suck, if the answers to any of the questions are that it sucks, let’s make this a short-term problem. Let’s fix our happiness and fix our leadership seat. 

Look At Me, An Unhappy Leader

You’re not alone in this, friends. I’ve been an unhappy leader too. 

When I was a young service industry business leader, I remember clearly the point where I realized I was failing myself and my team. 

I was always the first to show up to the office as the boss. I unlocked the door, put on the coffee, and got into my office and to work. 

One Monday, I showed up like normal before everyone else. At this point, we were just a plumbing business (pipes and drains only). 

I was still drinking then, so I was probably hungover. 

Anyway, the first technician came in. I watched him approach (my office faced the front). He popped in a said as cheery as could be, “Morning, boss. Happy Monday! How are you doing?”

I responded with the standard, “Well, it’s a Monday.” He went about his morning work. 

Each of my team mates came in and greeted me. I responded with all the same stuff you expect to hear from a boss or someone in a service industry.

“It’s a Monday, all right.”

“Same crap, different day.” 

“My weekend was a waste. Didn’t get anything done except fight with the wife.” 

Next thing I knew, the morning was gone, and it was time to get the trucks out. 

Once 7 AM hit, I went out to talk to my guys. I thought to myself, It’s time to be motivational. 

I started saying all the things a manager is “supposed” to say to motivate them. 

“Hey, let’s make our customers have a great day.”

“Ask the good questions to make sure you’ve satisfied every need.”

“Don’t forget to implement that new sales tactic we talked about.”

The Realization

Then, it occurred to me. 

The boss I was before the day started, and the boss I was later with weren’t the same person. 

I was unhappy, and I started out my team mates’ day by dropping crap on them. Then, I have the gall to turn around and expect them to be motivated. 

I needed to get myself in order and be true to the leader I am. 

I’ll leave you with this thought: 

The chair is never going to be better than what you have right now. You’re a leader by choice; you have the best seat in the house. 

If you don’t agree with this, it’s time to get a new chair. Make your seat better by finding ways to be happy with it. 

If it sucks for you, imagine how much it sucks for those below and around you. 

How Can You Accept Being A Happy Leader?

Joe Polish is a motivational speaker and friend. He talks about ELF-ing in your leadership work. 

Look for tasks that are: 

  • Easy
  • Lucrative
  • Fun

There’s a myth about “backbreaking” work. Yeah, work can be challenging, but you should also enjoy it. 

It shouldn’t be HARD to do. It shouldn’t make you hate the job and your life. 

As a leader, this leaks down to our team mates and those we work with. 

It poisons the whole work environment. 

Look for ELF jobs. 

Keep your mind and consider what YOUR type of leader can be. Don’t try to live up to what you’ve heard good leaders should be. 

If you’re not having fun, making money, and getting things done easily, you’re unhappy and working on the wrong things. 

There’s a saying out there: “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

It’s stupid. 

Do what you love and MAKE money, and you’ll be happy. 

Get your ego out of the way. Nobody CARES how hard you work. They care that you enjoy your job and get it done well. 

Don’t make it a point of pride that you’re miserable in your job. Check your ego at the door. 

image how happy leaders choose happiness: 5 Steps infographic






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Homework: Choosing To Be A Happy Leader

Your homework for this article is one of the hardest ones you may ever attempt. But the rewards are beyond worth it! 

It requires an honest look and effort on something very personal. 

This may feel like it runs against everything you think a leader needs to be, but I challenge you (as we talked about before) to open your mind to new ways of leadership. 

In the long run, being a happy leader will help you foster a better workplace and help yourself be a happier and healthier boss. 

#1 Get Clear And Decide To Be Happy

First, you need to look at your life and get clear. 

Admit to the place where you’re unhappy or acting unhappy. 

Now, decide you want to be happy. 

Make a conscious decision. 

Say to yourself (even out loud): 

“I want to be a happy leader.”

Do it for your business. Do it for your team mates. And do it for you. 

#2 Drop Perfectionism

Now that you’ve decided to be happy, it’s time to get to work. 

Drop that perfectionist attitude. 

It’s good to have high standards. It’s NOT good to hold yourself to impossible standards and beat yourself up when you make mistakes. 

Remember, one of the parts of happiness is contentment. If you hold yourself to the impossible perfect leader, you’ll always be discontent. 

#3 Enjoy Little Wins

As you lead, enjoy and celebrate the little wins. 

A lot of people make the mistake of aiming for the big, grand victories they feel marks success in their business. 

“I want to make so and so much money for my business this year.”

“I want to have my business featured in so and so magazine.” 

While these are good goals, they can’t be the only goals you have. 

These big goals are made of hundreds and thousands of little wins. 

When you ignore the little wins, you’ll be running and running for a goal so large it takes years to reach. It’s hard to stay happy and motivated to reach these big goals. 

Break them down into little goals and celebrate those goals. 

You’ll end up in the same place, but you’ll be happier and more productive on the way.

#4 Focus On Gratitude

Whole books have been written on the topic of gratitude in relation to happiness. Happiness gurus talk about being thankful as the number one key to being happy. 

Every time there is a little win or something good goes your way, make an effort to be actively grateful, and show that gratitude. 

Don’t be surprised when this single step makes you a much happier person. 

More on this will come with other posts on leadership. 

#5 Express Yourself

Embrace the leader your personality lets you be. 

Look at what you were told and what you believe about what a leader should be. 

A lot of times, these myths about how a leader should act doesn’t line up with your natural personality. 

If it doesn’t line up, don’t do it! 

Look at yourself and who you are, honestly. Lead how you’re meant to be. 

Each person has their own personality, and every person can be a happy leader if they express themselves through leadership naturally and intentionally. 

Step into your crazy!

You don’t have to “act’ like a leader; be your type of leader intentionally.

Final Thoughts

It’s not enough to just “think” about the steps above. To embrace happiness leadership and see if happy leaders lead better, you need to act on these steps. 

If I were following you around this week, would I be able to see you being happier?

How would I and others know you’re happier? 

Actions, even if we don’t believe in them 100%, will affect our minds and emotions. Act happy, be happy by deciding to be happy, dropping perfectionism, enjoying little wins, focusing on gratitude, and expressing yourself. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! See you next time! 

About Kenny Chapman

About Kenny Chapman

Kenny Chapman’s mission is to help driven leaders build their ideal lives and careers (even if they don’t know what that looks like yet). He is an award-winning authority on helping people discover their true potential and make the simple, though not always easy, necessary changes.

Kenny is a professionally trained speaker, consultant, columnist, author of The Six Dimensions of Change 2.0 and In-Home Sales Acceleration, and host of the Leadership in a Nutshell podcast. He is an entrepreneur at heart, building multiple successful companies, most recently the Blue Collar Success Group. His teachings have inspired individuals worldwide to reshape their lives and organizations, creating sustainable change, happiness, and personal fulfillment.

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