One aspect of living well that I have learned from indigenous cultures is that they highly regard humour. Being playful and childlike and not taking oneself too seriously are virtues that help people get through conflicts and challenging situations.

As we grow up, we too often lose touch with the spirit of play — but playfulness is an essential aspect of leadership.

​​ “Having fun isn’t an enemy of efficiency. It’s fuel for finding flow. ” — Adam Grant 

Playfulness As A Guiding Principle For The Conscious Leader

When running my businesses in Iceland, one of our mottos was that we had to have fun, and so we did. And when I co-founded the company the Conscious Leader Network in Los Angeles in 2011, ‘playfulness’ was one of our guiding principles. To me, a workplace without humour and a sense of joyful play is dull, heavy, and not conducive to creating an innovative or effective company culture.

So, are humour, joy, and playfulness part of your leadership toolkit? Take just a minute to check it out…It’s always a good time to examine how you show up in the world.

Why Is Playfulness Important In The Workplace?

If you are too serious, it indicates you’re stuck in your head, and that puts your overactive mind on fire and activates friction that can quickly balloon into conflict and havoc. And unchecked, this often leads to toxic work culture.

Lack of playfulness can also stifle energy flow and block creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. And it puts your effectiveness and productivity at risk and diminishes positive engagement.

My colleague, Christiane Aminin, leadership mentor and trainer in Germany, tells me that fortunately, today, more and more of her clients are accepting her invitation to a ‘Playfulness workshop.’ However, this does not sound serious to many Germans because “we are adults after all,” they say. Only after she has addressed the mindset, providing as scientific explanations as possible from neurobiology about how our brain learns best, does readiness to participate occur.

Helping leaders keep their heads cool, connect to their bodies, and open their hearts through play and fun greatly benefits and creates a much happier and more effective work culture.

“Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning.” — Diana Ackerman

Playfulness Can Be A Path To Step Up Your Conscious Leadership

Being playful is grounding and brings you into the present moment. Consider the requirement of the conscious leader to be present in the chaotic environment we face every day. Playfulness will support her and fill her with a bounty of joy and vitality and boost her well-being and self-motivation.

“Resting is not a waste of time but an investment in well-being. Relaxing is not a sign of laziness but a source of energy. Breaks are not a distraction but a chance to refocus attention. Play is not a frivolous activity. It’s a path to connection and creativity.” — Adam M Grant

Finding Your Balance By Taking The Act Of Play Seriously

I have a leadership tool I introduce to my executive coaching clients, who are working on their conscious leadership skills. It is an exercise to create balance in your work and life through the ‘The Four Pillars of Vitality.’

The ‘The Four Pillars of Vitality’ are:

  1. True Work
  2. True Study
  3. True Play 
  4. True Rest

We must support and strengthen all the vitality pillars equally to stay balanced and in peak condition to take on a hectic day as a leader.

Yes, your ‘true play’ is as important as your ‘true work,’ ‘true study,’ and ‘true rest.’

How To Create More Play In Your Life At Work And Home

Now the question becomes, how do I bring more play into my leadership? Is it all done through games, perks, and fun activities, or could there be subtle ways I can integrate playfulness into my leadership beingness?

Think of the simple act of smiling and laughing. One of my executive coaching clients discovered in our sessions that he had been too serious for far too many years as he focused on hard work to reach his goals and success. 

Looking for amusement when weighing challenging situations can inject fun and freedom at work, bringing surprising ease into developing new solutions. Initiating spontaneity and playing with improvisation, especially in tense times, can make miracles happen.

We all take ourselves too seriously most of the time. Or at least most of us. Poke fun at yourself and enjoy exploring the infinite ways of perceiving a situation.

Kids are constantly asking questions. They don’t hold back on their curiosity. Start thinking like a kid, ask questions as a kid, and explore new and simple ways to solve a problem. 

Challenge yourself by breaking out of old routines and habits. That can sometimes be comical and bring a smile to your face and entertain others.  

Benefits Of Integrating Playfulness Into Your Leadership

Below are some of the more personal benefits of being playful.

  • Opens up creativity and innovation
  • Amplifies problem-solving and negotiations
  • Boosts well-being and busts burnout
  • Strengthens confidence and self-motivation
  • Creates connections
  • Enhances relationships building
  • Builds communities
  • Helps you to let go of the need to be right
  • Releases tension and stress
  • Opens your heart
  • Brings you joy, aliveness, and vitality
  • Fosters collaboration and co-creation

How are you doing with your playfulness?

Can you see playfulness as an untapped potential to lift your conscious leadership to the next level?

What if you intentionally focused on learning, leading, and living through PLAY?

Use your curiosity and strengthen your childlike spirit to transform the way you show up as a conscious leader.


Images courtesy of Depositphotos

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Rúna Bouius is a former CEO and entrepreneur from Iceland and the founder of the True Power Institute. As a keynote speaker, bestselling author, mentor, and advisor to visionary leaders and progressive entrepreneurs, she is on the vanguard of the new-business-paradigm thinking, creating better workplaces, and developing the emerging leaders. Rúna is a co-author of the bestselling book, “The Successful Mind,” a contributing author to several other books and publishing platforms, and sits on advisory boards. She is a co-founder of several social-impact platforms, including the Conscious Capitalism LA Chapter and Coventina Foundation. She specializes in helping CEOs, and C-Suite leaders accelerate their journey towards greater consciousness and TRUE Power.