“Your job as a leader is not to make your people happy.”

It sounds strange.

When you think of the best leader you’ve ever had, you probably think of someone who did make you happier.

A great leader is friendly, supportive, and gives you encouragement when you need it most.

Sure – all that stuff does make us happier – but it’s sort of missing the point.

In fact, if you’re always making people happy as a leader, you’re probably doing it wrong!

Your job as a leader isn’t to make your people happy…it’s to make your people BETTER.

The Difference Between Making People Happy Vs Making People Better

There’s a lot of things we can do to try to make our people happier.

We can give them free lunches, higher compensation, perks, rewards, you name it.

But let’s face it. Those things only go so far.

As Abe Lincoln once said, “people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Besides, as leaders, we usually want something more from our teams.

We want them to grow!

Everything Worthwhile in Life is Uphill

John Maxwell said “everything worthwhile in life is uphill.”

If you have a great relationship with somebody, you had to work on it.

If you’ve built a successful business, it took a lot of time and energy.

Likewise, if you’ve done the right things, you know it wasn’t always easy.

Striving to grow, achieve our dreams and be better isn’t a walk in the park.

We inevitably face serious challenges. We hit patches of bad luck.

It’s uncomfortable, frustrating, exhausting, you name it.

So a leader who prioritized making their people “happy” would actually tell them to avoid growth.

A leader who prioritizes making their people happy will also avoid hard conversations. They’ll be afraid to tell someone a hard truth.

But if you focus on helping your people become better, these conversations become opportunities not to make someone happy, but to help them grow.

That’s why leaders should focus on helping their people become BETTER. Now let’s talk about a few ways leaders can make that happen.

Understanding That People Rise or Fall to Your Expectations

If you show someone you believe they’re capable of greatness, they will try hard to prove you right.

But if you show someone you don’t believe they can amount to much, they will quickly lose motivation. They’ll know you’ve already made up your mind about them.

It’s hard to feel motivated to work for someone who views you poorly.

It’s an important lesson for leaders!

So as a leader, you need to strive to see the full potential of your people. Everyone starts somewhere. Give them encouragement whenever you can, and remind them of their potential.

Try your hardest to really mean it – people can sense whether you really believe in them or not!

Inspiring Teams to Take Ownership

In the effort to help their people grow, many leaders try to assign ownership to their teams.

But the reality is that you can’t make people take ownership.

Your people have to decide to take ownership for themselves.

Instead, you have to create an atmosphere where people naturally WANT to take ownership! That means coaching people to develop their own solutions to problems, and giving them room to fail.

This is difficult but well worth the time investment. For more on this subject, check out my article.

Having Regular 1:1 Conversations to Better Understand Your People

You can’t help someone grow if you don’t know what growth looks like to them!

We all have different definitions of growth. One person may want to get a promotion. Another may simply want to crush larger goals in their current role. A third person might be completely content with their job, but working on personal issues like anger management, or eating a healthy diet.

As a leader, your job is to help understand how your people want to grow, then support them in that vision. But you can’t do that without one-on-one conversations.

These are your opportunity to learn what motivates your people, what their goals and aspirations are, and coach them toward achieving them.

Leadership is About Lifting Others Up

Leadership isn’t about making people happy or comfortable or helping them have “fun” in the office. It’s about lifting others up. It’s about giving them the tools and encouragement to help them achieve more than they ever thought possible.

Striving to make people BETTER is a lot of time and hard work…but when you have a team of people that is firing on all cylinders, you’ll understand why it’s such a phenomenal investment!