Flow-promoting Leadership

The Basics: Csikszentmihalyi’s “Good Business” Idea

Flow-promoting leadership is wanted: while most people enjoy working when it provides Flow, too few jobs are designed to make Flow possible. This is where management can make a real difference. For a manager or leader who truly cares about the bottom line in the broadest sense of that term, the first priority is to eliminate obstacles to Flow at all levels of the organization and to substitute practices and policies that are designed to make work enjoyable.

What is Flow-promoting Leadership?

“Our jobs determine to a larger extent what our lives are like. A business organization whose employees are happy is more productive and has a higher moral. Any manager who wants his or her organization to prosper should understand what makes people happy, and implement that knowledge as effectively as possible. The best way management can help motivate workers to pursue common goals and grow in the process of doing so, is by providing opportunities for Flow in the workplace.” – Csikszentmihalyi, Good Business, 2003

Csikszentmihalyi’s many publications relating to Flow always include statements and discussions of his set of values. The values he promotes reflect his fundamental philosophy of life and its meaning and purpose. At the same time, the values he advocates area also of the kind that, if implemented well, would enhance the satisfaction of individuals (in their private lives and as employees), would improve organizational performance (broadly defined), and would also move people toward greater social harmony within the organization, the nation, and perhaps beyond.

Evidence shows that adopting Flow-promoting leadership values and practices yields two types of substantial, linked benefits whether the context is managing oneself, interacting with others, or leading a team or an organization:

  1. The first benefit comes from improving the life satisfaction of self, as well as of those individuals who are exposed, directly or indirectly, to others who are conducting themselves in synch with Flow theory’s simple precepts.
  2. The second, complementary benefit of a Flow-promoting work environment is that it improves, ceteris paribus, the multi-dimensional performance of the team, the unit, or the organization, as compared with a hypothetical situation in which no attention is paid to Flow-promoting practices or (and especially) if the group is being managed dysfunctionally from a Flow perspective. Multidimensional performance means measuring accomplishments not only via profits (in the case of not-for-profit entities, “surplus”) but by also taking into account such other aspects of performance as employee satisfaction and engagement, the sustainability of operations, and protection of the environment.

“Good Business” means an enjoyable, Flow-promoting work environment for an organization’s workers, through which a business’ (or any organization’s) “balanced scorecard” improves, thereby contributing to healthier and more sustainable societies at large.

FLIGBY simulation is the “gamification” of the Flow-promoting leadership growth process. During the Game, players receive continuous, individually-tailored feedback, designed to guide them toward Flow-based managerial practices.

FLIGBY as a Value-based Leadership Program

Today, FLIGBY and its rapidly-growing big data inspire advances in scholarly research in ways never thought of at the start. With the active participation of Prof. Csikszentmihalyi in the research work, the FLIGBY project identified and categorized leadership competencies that are the most useful in practicing Flow-promoting leadership. Nowadays FLIGBY is generating a massive data bank available to support almost any type of research on managerial skills.

A key conceptual contribution of FLIGBY’s design to leadership development is the identification of those competencies that are particularly important for helping to generate and maintain Flow at the workplace. Leadership starts with you – who you are, what you care about, and what you want to see happen. FLIGBY was created based on the following values:

  1. We believe in the Power of Flow – Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. The Flow-based organization promotes employee engagement and positive attitudes in the workplace. Done well, it helps to reduce costs, employee complaints and makes the company a place that people enjoy being a part of. Flow has the ability to improve the quality of life.
  2. Visioning beyond the Self – Business that does not contribute to human growth and well-being is not worth doing, no matter how much profit it generates in the short run. The most important distinguishing trait of visionary leaders is that they believe in a goal that benefits not only themselves but others as well. People want to work for a cause, not just for a living. We must have the conviction that our existence serves a useful purpose and has value.
  3. You are the Key to Success – Contrary to what most of us believe, happiness does not simply happen to us. It’s something that we make happen, and it results from our doing our best. The more opportunities you are willing to explore, the better chances you have of discovering your strengths. To experience Flow you must keep cultivating interest and curiosity, respond to a wide range of opportunities, and develop as many skills as possible.
  4. Leadership is a Function of Questions – Management has a lot to do with answers. But leadership is a function of questions. And the first question for a leader always is: “Who do we intend to be?” and not “What are we going to do?” Your creativity depends in a large part on the ability to ask the right questions. The problem finding is rather crucial to creativity than problem-solving.
  5. Let people grow – The main task of a manager is to get people to work together efficiently for a common cause. The best way to accomplish this is to create an environment where employees actually enjoy their work and grow in the progress of doing it. Getting employees to give their best is a way to make it possible for them to grow as individuals. An ideal organization is one in which each worker’s potentialities find room for expression.

Check out the Flow-based Leadership Model at the The Georgia Smoke Diver Program

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