Leading With Joy – Akaya Windwood and Rajasvini Bhansali Book Summary

Leading With Joy – Akaya Windwood and Rajasvini Bhansali | Free Book Summary

Leading With Joy – Akaya Windwood and Rajasvini Bhansali

Leading with Joy is a book by Akaya Windwood and Rajasvini Bhansali which promotes a courageous and compassionate approach to leadership . The book draws on the authors’ lived experiences as leaders, and their wisdom in principled action.

It is a practical guide to leading with joy, and offers guidance on how to tap into the joy of purposeful work and how to sustain that joy in times of adversity. It also provides advice on how to embed principles of justice, equity, and inclusion in work, and how to create spaces of joy that honor the dignity of all people. 

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Leading with Joy is the perfect guide for leaders who want to take an intentional, compassionate approach to leading in their organizations and communities.

Purpose and Vision

Cultivating joy requires commitment and practice. Clarity of both purpose and vision centers us in why we lead and what we want to happen in our work and the world. It is our north star and our place of deepest inspiration. Without it, our leadership can wither and become transactional rather than transformative. Work grounded in purpose and vision is a wonderful source of joy.

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Better together

Discovering our purpose is challenging to do alone. We invite you to chat with a pal or a group of folks you care about, and think back on the moments in your life that brought you joy or deep satisfaction. Tell each other some of the stories of those times.

Do you notice a theme or a thread that connects those moments? Is there an overall story to be told? Try and name it in a simple sentence like “My purpose is to ask hard questions so that people can grow.” Or “My purpose is to bring hope wherever I go.” Don’t rush with this—our understanding of our purpose deepens over time. As you do this, notice how it feels to talk about joy and purpose.

Humility, Experimentation, and Growth

Joy is generated from and lives in the heart, not the ego. We cannot “think” our way to joy. There is no hierarchy of expertise, and no human is better than any other. Remembering that we are only a small and necessary part of a vast human family allows us to do our particular work—to do what is ours and only ours to do—and let others do their particular work.

This frees us, because no one of us can possibly do everything that needs doing but together we can accomplish miracles. Being clear about our particular work with purpose and joy is an act of liberation.

Feedback is good

Many of us have been taught to think that feedback is a bad thing and should be avoided. In a society that heralds achievement over failure and stability over change, it’s tempting to engage in confirmation bias and validation-seeking behaviors. The last thing we want to hear from people we respect or after getting so much done is, “You don’t have it all together as much as you may think you do.”

But by welcoming thoughtful (or even challenging) feedback, we can learn from a mirror held up to us, allowing ourselves to go deeper without self-judgment. And with deep self-kindness and an open heart and mind, we can allow ourselves to grow. Often what we’ve learned from our own family, community, and cultural upbringing is to shut down or fight back against the critic. To shrink in the face of criticism, however, is to fall into the trap of taking down our own leadership. When we avoid feedback, we cannot grow.

Preserving and honoring individual and collective dignity

Joy comes from preserving and honoring the dignity of all whom we encounter in our leadership journey.

Often, we operate from a place of prioritizing tasks and accomplishments over relationships. This, however, does not lead to transformation. When we uphold the dignity and agency of the people we are trying to lead, influence, or organize, our impact can be so much greater and last long beyond our time in leadership.

The vignettes in this section highlight the many ways in which we find joy in dignifying and lifting others, just as we do for ourselves.

Healing, Forgiveness, and Redemption

There is much to be enraged by these days. When we as leaders hold on to unhealed wounds, we can inflict harm on the people we seek to lead. Committing to our own healing then becomes critical for creating the conditions in which all can thrive. It is a leadership imperative to continuously work on making ourselves whole.

We can find much joy in forgiveness and redemption, not only because they are right, but also because without them, the conditions for joyful exploration, collaboration, and experimentation simply cannot be created. Forgiveness releases us from the bonds of past trauma and creates room for us to be more fully human. It allows us to lay down old histories and lay new spacious and liberating foundations. Forgiveness can be quite challenging, but it is a crucial step on the path toward joy.

Making mistakes

Every leader makes mistakes—it’s impossible not to. Sometimes we hurt those around us. We don’t know a single human who is unscathed by some trauma. When we refuse to forgive those who have “wronged” us we remain tethered to that person energetically, and that can drain our resources and tap our power.

To forgive is liberating: it literally frees us and allows us to use our precious vital force and energy for the things and people who matter most to us.

Kindness, Trust, and Compassion

Choosing to be kind, to trust, and to exercise compassion is difficult especially when faced with the tensions in today’s workplaces. And yet, without these essential ingredients, our leadership can fall prey to old notions of power and control. It takes courage indeed to operate from a place of kindness, trust, and compassion, especially when we may hear that for the sake of efficiency, it’s best simply to exert suspicion, anger, and control.

If our job as leaders is to bring everyone along and to remember that no one is easily dispensable, then we should practice exercising the discipline of kindness, compassion, and trust. This practice brings joy, for it expands our capacity to be fully human and creates safety for those who depend on our leadership. When people feel emotionally safe with one another, they have greater possibility for connection and joy.

Grief, Challenge, and Disappointment

The good news is that we are all learning and growing. The challenging news is that we are all learning and growing, and that means we will make mistakes, fall down, and occasionally mess things up completely. People leave, organizations fail, and opportunities are lost. It is important that we as leaders acknowledge our mistakes and allow for grief and disappointment. If we do this, we learn, subsequently grow, and become wiser.

This is a marvelous thing indeed. When we eventually pick ourselves up and continue to practice, each “mistake” becomes a learning/growing step, which is essential on a joyful path.

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