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Elusive Happiness

Originally posted: September 30, 2010 on TrishMcFarlane.com

In his seminal work ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins found that two things were necessary for truly great (Level 5 in Collins’ vernacular) leaders: humility and a highly focused strength of will.  Perhaps Collins’ greatest contribution to leadership literature is having shot down the sexy, if fallacious, idea of leaders as larger-than-life and ostentatious.  So, why is it that after such paradigm-shifting discoveries we are still so mired in mediocrity in terms of our corporate and political (both parties!!!) leadership?  I think one of the biggest and most overlooked answers to this question lies in the way we pursue leadership.

To illustrate this point, consider the times in your life that you’ve been the happiest. Ever notice how elusive happiness is when you try to pursuit it? Well it turns out you have something in common with a famous utilitarian philosopher (your Mom must be so proud)! John Stuart Mill said, “Those are only happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than happiness. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness along the way.” Part of happiness is the effortlessness and lightness of being that accompanies it. So, when we try and try to be happy, we are necessarily running afoul of one of its fundamental features. Something very similar can be said of trying to be a leader.

I, like Jim Collins, think that humility is a necessary attribute of a deep leader. That said, when we take the mantle of leadership upon us in the “how-can-I-lead-these-little-people” sort of way, we’ve already failed! Those who aspire to leadership, who view themselves as leaders in the traditional sense, and who buy leadership books (and read blog posts on leadership – GOTCHA!) because they are somehow elevated, have violated one of the fundamental tenets of deep leadership before even truly beginning the journey. And as any sailor can attest, going on a journey that begins with a miscalculation can land you way off course.

Thank you to Daniel Crosby, Ph.D. for guest posting today.  Daniel is the President at Crosby Performance Consulting.  Please click HERE to learn more about him. You can also follow him on Twitter @crosbypsych.

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