Flow and Leadership

This is an executive summary of the application of the Flow concept to Leadership.

Flow is a mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment.

“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

One prerequisite of experiencing Flow is a good match between a person’s skill level and the difficulty of the challenge he or she is trying to meet. As a rule, the higher are the skill and the challenge levels, the more frequent and intensive tends to be the Flow experience.

Surveys and scientific studies have found that while most people enjoy working when it provides Flow, too few jobs are designed to make Flow possible. This is where those in managerial and leadership positions – and most adults do find themselves in such situations, in a variety of settings, for longer periods or from time to time – can and should make a difference by eliminating obstacles to Flow at all levels of the team or organization and instituting policies and practices designed to make work enjoyable.

A workplace conducive to Flow is ideal because it attracts the most able individuals, is likely to keep them longer, and obtains spontaneous effort from their work. It is best, too, from the viewpoints of employees because it supports their skill development and personal growth –key building blocks of a happier life. The combination of these benefits of Flow-promoting leadership is certain to improve any organization’s multi-dimensional “bottom line.”

One attraction of Flow-promoting leadership is that the resulting organizational and workforce benefits can be obtained at practically no cost. Adopting Flow-promoting management is like taking a low-hanging fruit.