“If you want to change somebody, don’t preach to him. Set an example and shut up.” – Jack LaLanne
No matter who, how, or why you lead, being a leader means eyes are on you: you’re looked to for answers, accountability and decisiveness. At the executive level, leading means both day-to-day and strategic decisions, but it also means existing as a symbol of your organization’s values. When you make a statement, decision or display of the values, mission, or policy of your company, these actions exist through the filter of your words, deeds and presentation.
In other words, effective leadership begins with aligning your message with your expression. Do what you say, say what you do.
Leadership and JOMO
Digital well-being is at the center of JOMO, because tech consumption without intention is probably the greatest drain on and threat to joy we face in the modern era. I fully appreciate how dramatic this sounds, but I stand by it. Well-established research abounds that we face an unprecedented crisis of attention span, memory, anxiety, loneliness and depression. Despite a booming market, and despite access to a larger pool of talent than ever in history, the best companies still struggle to find and retain quality team members, with dissatisfaction and burnout being some of the top reasons retention is so difficult. Immeasurable ink (and pixels) have been spilled on the phrase “work-life balance” – it exists and you should find it, it doesn’t exist and you should give up, it exists but requires a dramatic restructuring of your life, it doesn’t exist but working really hard should make you happy anyway, etc. For the majority of people I’ve met, worked with, and spoken to, the problem is one of balance, but it isn’t specifically “work” vs. “life”– it’s intentional vs. unintentional living. For nearly all of us, that balance becomes problematic when it’s about our relationship to technology.
Unwell leadership, unwell organization
Nearly every smart organization is waking up to the reality that “always-on” culture burns out their team, gives steadily diminishing returns in productivity and kills retention. “Wellness” initiatives permeate the startup world, and venerable orgs are following suit, but these initiatives rarely exist at every level of the company. In many cases, it’s tacitly understood that well-being policies are “for the troops” or “for people who aren’t really essential” or “what we do when it isn’t crunch time.” It’s seen as common sense that while it might be OK for project members to stop answering texts and email after closing time, this just isn’t realistic (or possible!) for the COO.
There are a lot of reasons why unevenly applied digital well-being policies are harmful, besides ineffectual:
When leaders find joy, organizations thrive
So, how do you as a leader personally apply the principles of JOMO to becoming an effective role model and ambassador for digital well-being? One of the beautiful things about JOMO’s principles is that they work everywhere in life: at home, in relationships and at work. When you come to understand what “the joy of missing out” represents beyond the platitudes, it becomes very easy to integrate the principles into your leadership.