The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

24 APRIL 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Leadership—speci cally, how a leader behaves day to day—is directly related to the organization’s performance. Your well-being as current or future leaders in the Foreign Service has a direct global impact. So, how do we become happier and, in turn, improve our well-being? e rst step is to recognize what happiness is not. Most of us in the Foreign Service look for happiness in all types of places like our dream post, the perfect job, or the next promotion. But even when we get all those things, happiness still eludes us. Why? We are so busy looking for it in achievements and temporary pleasures, we miss the fact that happiness is a direction, not a destination, as stressed by Harvard professor and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks. Science has made great progress in understanding happiness, and research in the elds of psychology, neuroscience, and sociology has uncovered important insights about what makes people happy. Building a happy life requires hard work and intentional e ort. It boils down to prioritizing key areas of your life, including ful lling relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners; pursuing meaningful goals and having a sense of purpose while being engaged in work and activities that align with your values; and focusing on your physical and mental health. In short, happiness is about a wholeness of being that includes work—but is not limited to it. Because life is not just work. Life is also relationships, wellbeing, and purpose. Leading with Happiness Research by social scientists, including Tal Ben-Shahar, the creator of Harvard University’s most popular course on positive psychology (and my current professor of Happiness Studies), and Arthur C. Brooks, bestselling author and professor on the science of happiness, brings into clear focus why happy people make better leaders. It is because they lead with: • Emotional Intelligence: Happy leaders are more adept at understanding their own emotions as well as those of others, leading to stronger interpersonal relationships and e ective communication. • Enhanced Collaboration: Happy leaders foster a more collaborative and supportive work environment. ey encourage teamwork, cooperation, and inclusivity, leading to psychological safety and better group dynamics. • Increased Productivity: Happy leaders create a more engaging work culture, boosting morale and job satisfaction. is leads to increased productivity and better performance. • Adaptability: Happy people are able to adapt to change. In our constantly shifting work environment, leaders who remain positive and adaptable can guide their teams more e ectively through transitions. e best leaders manage their own well-being and normalize it as accepted behavior. ey prioritize their health, delegate work, and establish and reinforce boundaries. e best leaders lead by example, and, as a result, individual and organizational well-being improves. The Role of the Organization Maintaining your well-being should not be solely your responsibility; your home agency also has a critical role to play. Focusing on employee well-being would be, as Secretary Antony Blinken has said, “an investment in the future of America’s leadership in the world.” By helping employees improve their lives outside the o ce, your employer has the potential to increase employee motivation and productivity exponentially. Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nds that wellbeing at work is not just an afterthought but is pivotal in an employee’s decision whether to take, stay at, or leave a job. ere is a gap, however, when it comes to helping keep employees happy, healthy, and productive. Measures taken to improve employee well-being often occur after they reach burnout or are on the verge of leaving. Valuable measures are underway in wellness, innovation, and employee well-being at the department through TalentCare, CEFAR, and GTM, among others, to improve things, but they are not fast enough or at a scale to make an enterprisewide di erence. Instead of being reactive, taking a more proactive role in improving employee well-being would go a long way. ese measures could include, but are not limited to, incentivizing and recognizing leaders who support employee Right now is the time to elevate employee well-being to the top of the policy agenda.