We all want to be happy. That’s a given. Written into our Declaration of Independence is our common belief in an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. But should we pursue happiness, and how does our work intersect with and impact our happiness?

The Happiness Paradox

Dr. Tracy Brower, author of Happiness at Work, explored this topic with LEAD 24/7 alumni at our September 2022 alumni gathering. She began her presentation by busting several prominent myths about happiness and their relation to our work, and then turned the whole conversation on its head:

We are about the pursuit of happiness in this country, it’s part of our values. But when we pursue happiness for its own sake, statistically, we are less likely to accomplish happiness.


The reason is that we tend to be focused on what we don’t already have, otherwise why would we be trying to reach that thing, and that tends to focus us on ourselves and statistically when you focus on others, when you focus on community, when you focus on what you’re giving instead of what you’re getting, that is highly correlated with happiness.


So if you’re seeking it for its own sake, it’s going to be tough to reach and super amorphic, and kind of disappearing like fog. But when you seek to create the conditions for happiness, that will get you there.

Creating the Conditions for Happiness

Dr. Brower then went on to help explain how leaders can work to create the conditions for happiness among their team. As she unpacked each of the conditions, I was struck by how many connections her presentation made with the concept of living systems and the chapters on Shaping Culture and Casting Vision. For example, Dr. Brower noted that a strong sense of purpose is correlated with all kinds of positive outcomes, like better physical health, and yes, happiness.

If you weren’t able to join us in person, we hope you’ll take some time to enjoy this presentation and dig into questions about how you’re doing as a leader to help create the conditions for greater happiness for yourself and your team.

Get to Know Dr. Tracy Brower

Dr. Brower studies work life fulfillment and happiness. She is the author of two books. “The Secrets to Happiness at Work” provides insights for joyful work and life and how to choose and create purpose fulfillment. “Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work” provides new perspectives and alternative ways to consider and achieve work-life “balance” (hint: it’s not about balance, it’s more than that). Tracy is also a contributor for Forbes.com and Fast Company, and a Vice President of Workplace Insights with Steelcase.

Grow as a Leader

To learn more about our yearlong leadership training program Lead 24/7 and how we serve our alumni with ongoing learning and networking opportunities just visit Leadingbd.com.