I don’t know about you, but the world seems to be far too serious. We spend the day grumpy in traffic, grumpy at work, grumpy with our families and grumpy with ourselves. I can tell you that in all my trips to Disneyland with my kids, we never took a photo with Grumpy. Mickey, Goofy, Buzz Lightyear and the rest?? Absolutely! But not with Grumpy…
There is great value in having fun! This is a high priority in our home as evidenced by a quick sampling of life with our craziness – we take great pride in our silly faces and enjoyment of the camera!
So, what does fun and laughter do for each of us?
- Laughter brings people together – I think it’s really hard to not get along with people that you laugh with. Funny faces, laughing together, telling jokes and just living life in a different way can bond people together…both family and friends.
- Laughter gives us a break from the problems of life. We all have storms and plenty of reasons for stress and worry. Laughter helps us to remember that the sun will come out tomorrow and that life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
- Laughter is physically healthy. Multiple studies have shown that people who laugh are healthier because there are multiple processes triggered in the body that lead to better health. I’m not a doctor so I can’t provide specifics here, but just go with this one…isn’t a chance for more health better than the alternative?
- Laughter reminds me to not take myself so seriously. I can get too wrapped up in self-importance and image if I am honest. My humanity wants to worry about what others think, what others say and how I am perceived. Laughter, especially at myself, grounds me and allows me to live humbly and enjoy life, rather than working so hard to impress other people.
I’m sure there are many more reasons to laugh, but at the end of the day, isn’t it better when you laugh? Be encouraged to slow down a bit, crack a joke and don’t take yourself so seriously. What are some of the other benefits of laughter you have found?
There is a tendency, at times, to enlist people onto our teams or into our cause because they are sympathetic to the vision. Maybe they are personally touched by what we do, have a family member or close friend who is touched, or are merely compelled by the change we endeavor to make in the world. Regardless, this sympathy is not necessarily a license for leadership. Often, those sympathetic to a cause are the ideal followers due to their passion and emotional investment. However, these very characteristics can often be the downfall of healthy leadership decisions.
Leadership is often a lonely journey and it becomes necessary on a regular basis to make decisions that while not popular with the crowd are essential for the good of the cause. A leader cannot always see perfectly ahead and must follow their gut. If a sympathizer is in a leadership role, it becomes almost impossible to make the hard call because of the highly volatile emotional investment.
So, how do you tell the difference between leadership and sympathy? This is not a comprehensive list, but are some observations I have made over my years of leading.
- A leader sees the big picture while a sympathizer becomes focused on the individual. Now, hear me out on this one. I am not saying that leaders should not care about people and that the group is more important than the one. What I am saying is that you can bog down a movement by spending too much energy on one person when so many more need to be touched. A leader at times must allow sympathizers to console the one while the leader is free to decide according to the ultimate plan and vision.
- A leader remains true on course while a sympathizer becomes distracted with the surroundings. Leaders are called upon to know the best and most efficient way to get from point A to point B. This rarely involves side roads, distractions and obstacles. A leader looks for the one way to move forward and bring the most people with. A sympathizer can get lost on the journey by losing focus and forgetting what their original plan might have been.
- A leader is able to say no to many good things in order to be ready for the greatest thing – a sympathizer typically says yes to everything and misses out on the greatest thing. Our society does not readily support the idea of personal boundaries and margins. People become offended by “no” and take it personally…often accusing the leader of not caring. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is precisely because the leader cares that he or she is able to say no. They must be ready to lead. If every appointment or meeting is important, then none are truly important. If every conversation is dire and urgent, then none are. Effective leaders must be confident enough to say no to any and everything that would pull them from their ultimate purpose.
It is typically easier in the short term to act with sympathy. This causes people to like us, we become popular, we feed needed and all is right with the world. However, in the long term we become worn down, people depend upon us too much and we slowly become bitter and resentful when others ask of us. If we are able to lead, ourselves first, then our families and finally our vocation, then we can say no, we can wait for the best and then feel energized and refreshed when we lead from a place of strength rather than a place of leftovers.
Leadership versus sympathy…it is rarely an easy choice, but then again who ever said that the call to leadership involved easy?