Well-being is the New Leadership. Here’s a Map.
As we wrote in the Institute of Coaching report – Leading with Humanity - the pandemic era has awakened our humanity as leaders. More of us are tuning into the ultimate purpose of organizations - to serve humans - our aspirations, needs, values, strengths – the sum of everything that influences human well-being. Everything leaders and organizations do has the ultimate, higher intention of making human lives better. We are moving away, albeit slowly, from bureaucracies where humans serve institutions, and moving toward “humanocracies” where institutions serve humans and humanity.
How work drives human well-being is right in front of our eyes now – connection, trust, relationships, purpose, engagement, collaboration, productivity, and creativity – these are drivers of BOTH human well-being AND great performance at work.
Our eyes confirm the work of researchers. Leading well, aka being led well, has been shown to generate psychological and physical well-being – improving engagement and reducing stress and burnout. The research shows that the reverse is true too – life well-being enables our best performance at work.
What’s a map then for leaders to foster human well-being, in ways that also enable great work?
In my co-authored Harvard Health book, Organize Your Emotions, Optimize Your Life, we explored nine universal personality elements that code for our individual needs, values, interests, and strengths. Each of us has our own formula for well-being based upon our unique personality mix. These personality elements also manifest in 8 types of corporate cultures, as explored in an HBR article on corporate culture.
We’ve since mapped the nine elements to a variety of personality models, including:
Jung's cognitive functions, the basis of the Myers-Briggs assessment
Enneagram model of personality drives
Let’s consider how these core elements of well-being offer leaders a whole, human-centered model for leading well.
Autonomy (Jung’s introverted feeler, Enneagram Reformer)
A primary human need is autonomy (self-determination theory) – to live our lives in alignment with our core values, interests, needs, and strengths. High levels of autonomy are needed to lead well – to model personal responsibility, stand up for what is good and right, to be authentic, and to be courageous and values-driven. Empowering others to do the same promotes their autonomy and well-being.
Relational (Jung’s extraverted feeler, Enneagram Helper)
Another primary need is relationships where we attune to and serve others’ needs, strengths, and values, and receive the same in return. Social intelligence and compassion have been shown to be vital in leadership and teamwork. They generate well-being in followers as we/they feel connected, seen, heard, appreciated, respected, and supported, especially in tough situations.
Confidence (Self-Determination Theory, Enneagram Challenger)
Confidence is both task-specific and broad. It’s a big driver of well-being – one of the three core psychological needs unpacked in Self-Determination Theory. We dearly want to be competent, using our strengths to master work and life’s challenges. Leaders continually help people learn, grow, and expand their competence and confidence, which spills over to engagement - using our skills and knowledge well at work. Continual growing and learning is a hallmark of a human-centered leader - for self and others.
Regulator (Jung’s introverted sensor, Enneagram Loyalist)
We all need a sense of stability, balance, safety, and security, built upon a work (and life) environment that is carefully constructed to have integrity and to be stable. Good leaders know how to balance and stabilize themselves (e.g. good emotion regulation, good fitness and health). They encourage everyone to be physically and psychologically fit and healthy, and to steer around reactivity and burnout. They also create a psychologically safe culture and a sound organizational structure (e.g. people, processes, finances).
Adventurer (Jung’s extraverted sensor, Enneagram Enthusiast)
Once adults (like children) feel stable, they are ready to explore, take risks, learn new things, create new adventures, find the lessons in adversity, enjoy life’s pleasures, and change what’s ripe for reinvention. Leaders model the adventurous spirit, agile and enthusiastic, shaking up the status quo, and keeping up or, even better, getting ahead of external change.
Thinker (Jung’s introverted thinker, Enneagram Investigator)
People want to understand how things work, what causes what, to solve complex problems, and to make and implement great decisions. Leaders model critical, objective thinking and analysis, finding the truth camouflaged in the noise and messiness of human minds and activity. Leaders’ thinking processes are on display in their communications, helping others think and understand clearly their analysis and best steps forward.
Standard Setter (Jung’s extraverted thinker, Enneagram Achiever)
Humans need to strive toward a purpose and goals, to have a reason to bounce out of bed and make ourselves and our world a little better every day. Leaders model the purposeful goal-directed process – defining what excellence looks like, designing goals and being accountable to get there, getting things done, and tracking and reporting continual progress.
Creative (Jung’s extraverted intuitive, Enneagram Individualist)
While most of us aren’t songwriters or artists, we all want to be creative and develop new opportunities, new ways of doing things, and new or improved products and services. Co-creative collaboration is particularly nourishing – when we come together and invent things none of us could do alone. Leaders help themselves and others be more creative, igniting and inspiring others to go nonlinear, to outgrow today’s ways of thinking, feeling, and doing.
Strategist (Jung’s introverted intuitive, Enneagram Peacemaker)
The ability to step back and zoom out to see the whole picture, create harmony, make meaning of complex situations, find the wisdom in the moment, synthesize all of the data into a strategy – this is the higher purpose of leadership. Leaders are in their roles because they handle more complexity, spot gaps, see further ahead, and find and convey meaning, wisdom, gratitude, and good strategy.
As a human-centered checklist on the well-being of the people and organization you lead, consider how well you are supporting these nine personality elements individually and collectively - autonomy, relationships, competence, regulation and stability, adventure and change, critical thinking and decisions, ambition and direction-setting, creativity, and strategic thinking.
While our personality structures vary widely in the sorting of our mental processes, drives, and strengths, we share all of the underlying elements. This is our common humanity, which makes for a good starting point in mapping human well-being to leadership.
Onward and upward.
Institute of Coaching report: Leading with Humanity - the future of leadership and coaching
McKinsey & Company - Cultivating compassionate leadership during COVID-19
Humanocracy - Creating organizations as great as the people in them
Organize Your Emotions, Optimize Your Life, Harvard Health book published by William Morrow
The Leader's Guide to Corporate Culture, Harvard Business Review
Josh Bersin - The secret to well-being at work is leadership