The text of the second section reads:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Life. Liberty. Happiness. Three undeniable rights that have been burned into the psyche of the American people since that first Independence Day.
The first two rights are generally easier to understand, explain, pursue – or defend. The third one is a much more difficult.
What exactly is the happiness we are pursuing? And is each individual alone responsible to find it, achieve it, and experience it?
The Value of Happiness
As a differentiating value, Happiness means a state of well-being with emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
Happiness is an emotion.
Ask someone if they are happy or not, and they generally don’t find it difficult to give an answer. While we might prefer to hear either a yes or no, oft times we’ll get “I’m ok” or Sort of” or “I’m getting there.”
The truth is, it’s hard to be happy all the time. One minute you feel great, and then you experience someone hurt, disappointed, or angry and the happiness is gone. It’s like trying to grab a hand full of jello. The harder you squeeze the more it disintegrates and squirts away until you have nothing.
Thus, the pursuit of happiness becomes a constant and never-ending chase.
Happiness doesn’t just show up. There has to be a reason for it. Generally it requires some incentive or motive.
This is where an effective leader can make a difference.
A Leader’s Impact on Happiness
Right now I’m reading a great book called Spiritual Leadership, by Henry & Richard Blackaby. The authors highlight an interesting definition of leadership by James MacGregor Burns, an authority on leadership studies, where MacGregor states:
“Leadership over human beings is exercised when persons with certain motives and purposes mobilize, in competition or conflict with others, institutional, political, psychological, or other resources so as to arouse, engage, and satisfy the motives of followers.”
Note the last line: to satisfy the motives of followers. Leaders have a responsibility for the happiness of their followers.
Stop and consider the following:
- Why have billions of people listened to Reverend Billy Graham over the past 65 years, on radio, television, or at one of his crusades?
- Why did a million men march on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous “I have a dream” speech?
- Why have millions of people participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, started in 1982 by her sister Nancy Goodman Brinker?
- Why do thousands of customers line up outside Apple stores when they release a new iProduct, and Steve Jobs is celebrated as a business leader icon?
Now think about emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. These leaders inspired it.
Great leaders understand what their followers are seeking. Yes they want life and liberty. But they are also pursuing happiness.
If you are trying to improve your leadership abilities, ask yourself how much you consider the happiness of your followers. Do you push it aside and say “it’s their own responsibility to make themselves happy”? Or do you carefully consider how attaining the organizations goals will impact the well-being and emotions of your followers?
This is not a chicken and egg question, where you must choose between the organization’s goals and the motives of followers. Embracing the value of happiness can be a powerful unifying force.
What other leaders have connected with their followers’ pursuit of happiness?
How can the value of happiness help you develop your differentiation?
Today’s value was selected from the “Fun-Recreation” category, based on the e-book Developing Your Differentiating Value.