Do you know what drives performance in your business?

Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations and author of Joy, Inc., leads over 300 tours of his company in Ann Arbor, Michigan every year. In a recent interview for my upcoming book, Exuberance, he described how he reveals the “business case for joy” to each tour group of business leaders.

“Let’s say half of our Menlo team had joy and half didn’t. Which half would you want me to assign to your project?”

Without exception, every single business leader chooses the “joy half” of the team. Richard then asks them why.

Invariably, they answer, “They’d be more productive, more engaged, and easier to work with. They’d do better work and care more about the outcome.”


Even without empirical evidence, it seems we intuitively know that “joy”—or joy’s more energetic cousin “exuberance”—is related to higher performance.

People who delight in what they do tend to deliver products and services that delight their customers. Teams who operate with exuberant energy collaborate more seamlessly, learn more quickly from mistakes, and navigate better through unforeseen  “bad weather events” along the way.

And now the empirical evidence is rolling in as well.

In his Harvard Business Review article called “Leadership That Gets Results”, Daniel Goleman cites research which shows that nearly a third of a company’s financial results (as measured by key business performance indicators such as revenue growth, return on sales, efficiency, and profitability) are determined by the climate of the organization.

What, then, drives the climate of an organization? It’s the mood of the leadership.

Goleman states in his book Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence that 50 to 70% of employee perceptions of their organization’s climate can be attributed to the actions and behaviors of their leaders. The leaders are responsible for creating the organizational environment. That environment affects people’s moods at work. Each person’s mood, in turn, determines how engaged and productive they are.

Corporations spend billions on measuring employee engagement and launching programs to raise those levels. But engagement is only the symptom. Leaders create ripple effects all around them—all the time. Ripple effects that bring the very best out of people or leave people frustrated and operating at less than their full capacity.

The mood of the leader is the source of results.

Exuberance is one of many moods we can choose as leaders. It is an infectious, impossible to ignore, positive energy. Exuberance generates a shared mindset of possibility. For a team, it creates a sense of unstoppability. This isn’t about grinding it out with grim determination. It’s about generating a sense of adventure that lifts all work—and all players—to a higher plane of performance.

Exuberant leadership is the secret sauce for a winning business. Not just for one season but year after year.

Take responsibility for your mood. Join the select circle of exuberant leaders in the world.