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Angus Ridgway and Tal Ben-Shahar ©Potenialife

By Sunita Sehmi, Walk The Talk

We know that leaders are avid readers and in a market flooded with leadership books sighting leadership as a challenge, The Joy of Leadership offers a renewed and captivating vision on how truly joyful leadership can be. Based on research and science, it is both practical and easy to apply. I found it provides authoritative insights and valuable tools to prepare any leader to flourish.

More than a management book, it’s practical, easy to read and full of life skills. A sensible and humanistic approach to a very human behaviour, leading. Both Angus and Tal are co-founders of Potentialife. I was very fortunate to interview one of the authors, Tal Ben Shahar. Enjoy!

Tal Ben-Shahar (www.potentialife.com; Israel) is a speaker and author of the international best sellers Happier and Being Happy. He taught two of the largest classes in Harvard University’s history, Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Leadership. Tal is co-founder and Chief Learning Officer at Potentialife, a leadership development organization.

Angus Ridgway (London, UK) is Co-Founder and CEO of Potentialife. Previously he was with McKinsey, and led the Strategy Practice in Europe, Middle East and Africa, overseeing the work of over 1,000 colleagues. In addition, for over 10 years he led Leadership Development functions at McKinsey, most recently for the global group of 1,500 Partners.

Hello Tal thank you again for doing this interview. How have you been?
Thank you! I've been traveling a lot, and spending much time with family too.

This time you teamed up with Angus Ridgway. How was that collaboration and how did it come about?
Angus spent 21 years at McKinsey, and was a senior director leading a strategy group as well as heading their leadership development programs. At McKinsey & Company, he both led the Strategy Practice in Europe, Middle East and Africa, overseeing the work of over 1,000 colleagues, as well the Firm’s Partner Leadership Development function globally, where he helped to design and implement intervention programs to foster the development of leadership behaviours of 1500 fellow Firm Partners.

I know this book is not just another management book... tell us why is your words.
This book brings together the Science of Happiness and Leadership Development. We argue that all the conditions necessary for flourishing are also the ones required in the 21st century for success as a leader. For example, focusing on your strengths will lead to better performance and higher job satisfaction; similarly, cultivating positive and authentic relationships will lead to more happiness and more success.

The Joy Of Leadership is not just about management; it’s about the difference between “those who flourish and those who flounder.” So why do some leaders flounder why others flourish?
There are certain behaviours that flourishing leaders perform on a consistent, regular basis. We identified five major ones (not the only ones, but they account for much of the variance explaining the difference between those who flourish and those who don't).
Together they make up the acronym SHARP:
1. Strengths. Flourishing leaders do not ignore their weaknesses, but they primarily focus on their strengths.
2. Health. Stress is not the problem when it comes to peak performance. In fact, stress can be good for us, physically and psychologically, if we take enough time for recovery--which is precisely what top performing leaders do.
3. Absorption. Being engaged, present, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of flourishing leaders.
4. Relationships. The best leaders are able to find the synthesis between being authentic and being positive.
5. Purpose. A sense of purpose in one's work is an important component of resilience, happiness, and success.

You say, “We can put these behaviours into practice.” So, does this mean good leadership skills can be learnt? What does it take to consistently perform and achieve?
A theoretical understanding of leadership is as valuable as a theoretical understanding of swimming. Practice—consistent practice—is essential. The 3Rs are necessary for lasting change: reminders, repetition, and rituals. 10X leaders apply the SHARP elements I mentioned above on a consistent basis.

Who are these 10X leaders? What is their secret? Their secret is consistency.
Becoming a better leader is no rocket science, however without performing the desirable behaviours over and over again, no change can come about.

Which myths related to leadership, happiness, and success are we still telling ourselves?
Most people believe that success will lead to wellbeing. Their mental model is: Success (cause) > Happiness (effect)
But most people have it wrong. We know from a great deal of research that success, at best, leads to a spike in one's happiness levels, but the spike is temporary, short-lived. 
But while success does not lead to wellbeing, the opposite is the case: Success (effect) > Happiness (cause)
This is a very important finding, turning the cause-and-effect relationship around and correcting the misperception that so many people have. The reason for the above is that when we experience pleasurable emotions we are more creative, more motivated, form better relationships, and are physically healthier. Organizations should invest in their employees' happiness as an end in itself, and also as a means toward higher profits. Happiness pays!

You both conclude the best way to lead, to succeed, is to be happy. What would you say to sceptics who say happiness is overrated?
Look at the data! If you raise levels of wellbeing even by a little bit, you see a significant increase in creativity/innovation and productivity. Additionally, teamwork improves, physical health is positively affected, and retention rates are higher.

How easy is it to implement the SHARP framework?
The challenge is not conceptual to understand…. it but behavioural….. to apply it.
The following can make implementation easier:
a. Do it with others; have accountability buddies.
b. Take on small, humble behavioural changes, and apply them consistently.
c. Use technology to remind you of the changes you're implementing. Use the "recur" function often!

The book is available on Amazon. Understand and engage with the science of SHARP, behavioural change and leadership development with "The Joy of Leadership."


Sunita's Bio

sunita Sehmi

Sunita is an Executive Coach, Trainer and Consultant. She is of Indian origin and was born in London before moving to Geneva in 1992. She has a Psychology background (specialising in Occupational Psychology) and a Post Graduate in the Development and Training of Adults. She also completed a Masters in Ressources Humaines, Coaching et Gestion des Carrières at the University of Geneva.

During her 26 years experience Sunita's drive has always been to help people to do their best and hence led her to create Walk The Talk.

In her free time Sunita is a Mentor for the Branson Center of Entrepreneurship and a proud member of the School in The Cloud Team.