There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. – Edith Wharton, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

I recently spoke with a senior leader in my business network on the topic of inspiring and encouraging employees after what has been a very challenging few years. As we shared observations, we were both struck by how gloomy, cynical, and anxious many leaders (and their team members) in our extended networks seem to be about life, work, and what lies ahead. This is certainly understandable in light of what we have experienced with the pandemic years, politics, social unrest, the economy, overwhelming negativity from news channels and social media, and a host of other challenges that are slowly wearing us down and making many of us feel more jaded.

If you will indulge me, I would like to offer a nonscientific antidote for business leaders who are feeling jaded. I know it is effective because I have seen it in action over most of my adult life. I strongly believe the best way to counter feeling jaded is to work at sincerely embracing a more joyful mindset. I hope we can agree that jaded leaders likely struggle to inspire and encourage others, but joyful leaders excel at it. For some leaders who embrace this joyful mindset, the change will be like flipping a switch. For others, it may require significant effort. Regardless, I promise the journey is worth it!

How exactly do we become more joyful leaders? I could ask this question of ten different people and get ten different answers. Perhaps it would help if I describe how I observe these leaders showing up to me and others. The most effective leaders I know act differently and embrace a joy-filled approach to work and life in general. There are consistent behaviors that form the foundation of a joyful mindset in these leaders—here are some examples:

  • The joyful leaders I know are grateful for what they have and are not focused on what they may be missing.
  • They are humble and strive to give others the credit for their successes.
  • They are authentic and consistently true to who they are at all times, regardless of the audience.
  • They handle adversity with calmnesshumor, and a focus on learning from difficult moments.
  • They are generous with their time and invest cheerfully and selflessly in their relationships with work colleagues, friends, and family.
  • They give back to their community and serve and support great causes.
  • They are realistic about challenges; they don’t ignore them but rather choose to be optimistic and hopeful about solving them.
  • They practice self-care and are intentional about taking care of their physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental needs. They understand that we cannot share with others from an empty cup.
  • The most joyful leaders I know have strong faith and recognize that their joy ultimately comes from God.

One other common behavior of the joyful leaders I know is how they consistently inspire and make others feel better, especially their work colleagues. I am reminded of this powerful quote attributed to St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa): “Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy shows from the eyes. It appears when we speak and walk. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. Joy is very infectious.”

As we ponder this idea of being jaded or joyful, think about the role we can play in preparing for a more positive, hopeful, and joyful future. We can fight the widespread gloom that surrounds us by spreading goodwill and joy in our daily interactions with others. We can greet others with kindness and a smile and serve their needs as best we can. We can speak with work colleagues, friends, and family with the desire to bring joy and cheerfulness to the conversation rather than complaints or negativity. We can go out of our way to help and serve those who may be struggling in our companies, families, and communities. Wouldn’t you agree that when we offer encouragement and joy to others, we are quietly fueling growth in these critical areas for ourselves as well?

Maybe all of these noble efforts can help us provide the inspiration and encouragement our work colleagues (and others) need from us right now. Maybe we will embrace this thinking because we recognize that we are beyond ready to abandon our jaded mindset and need this simple reminder. Whatever the reason, let’s all do our part to create a ripple effect of joy in our spheres of influence.

If we lead with joy, others will follow. Only good things will result when we do.

Reflect for a few minutes on your current mindset. Are you feeling jaded or joyful? Depending on your state of joy, commit to modeling and improving your practice of the key behaviors of joyful leaders mentioned in this post. Discuss your efforts with a friend or two and encourage one another’s efforts to grow in this area.