ATHENA Leadership Virtue: Celebration and Joy

The York County Economic Alliance recently launched their new Professional Women's Alliance (PWA) to share resources that celebrate, support, promote, and advance the success of women in business. The PWA's first event was a luncheon featuring past ATHENA recipients who spoke about the individual virtues that make up the ATHENA Leadership Model. They have graciously agreed to share their perspectives here, as well.

By: Jody Keller

Is there anything better than a celebration? Who doesn’t love a party? And as the ancient philosopher, Cyndi Lauper said, “girls just wanna have fun." Right?

So, how does celebration and joy fit into a leadership model? Innovative companies and organizations encourage celebration – of successes, achievement, accomplishing goals, but also celebrations of their employees’ and clients’ good fortune. A culture of leadership begins with celebrating shared success with others.

Zappos.com, one of the top-rated companies in best places to work surveys, boasts high productivity, low turnover and growing profits, due to in a large part to their engaged and happy workforce. 

They publish a “culture book” annually, where employees share their thoughts on working for Zappos. This book is shared with anyone who wishes a copy. It is a vivid illustration of the strong commitment and loyalty employees have to Zappos – which is unusual for most companies. An even more unique example of celebration as an essential part of the Zappos culture is the large gong in their entrance/reception area. Anyone, employee or visitor, is invited to bang the gong and make an announcement to all gathered in the space – a personal life event such as a wedding, birth of a baby, promotion, or something that’s special to that person can be shared for all to celebrate. So, it seems to be common sense that celebration should be part of every leader’s strategy:

  1. Celebration brings people together. Research in human psychology suggests that discussion of positive events leads to more closeness and better relationships than discussing negative events. 
     
  2. Celebration doesn’t have to cost anything, and it works – recognizing and celebrating progress results in more productive teams.
     
  3. Positive emotions broaden human thinking. We’re more open to new ideas and think more creatively. Think about starting your next meeting giving the participants a chance to offer some good news and watch what happens!

On the face, the concepts of work and joy appear to be mutually exclusive – at least for some.  The question you must ask yourself is, “does work bring joy, OR do we find joy within ourselves as we work?"  

Think about this. There’s a significant difference between looking for something outside of ourselves as the source of joy – this can be a never-ending search. We buy more stuff, we busy ourselves with more activity….but are we happier?

As humans, most of us are profoundly motivated by the INTERNAL, or to use the word of behavior psychologists such as Maslow or Jung, the INTRINSIC desire for personal growth, rather than extrinsic rewards or carrots such as more money, which often serve as a motivator for a very brief time.

So it makes sense that joy comes from seeing purpose in our work, and being in an environment where positive emotion creates an urge to play and be creative. Great leaders know this.

So, I challenge you to get back to your work, whatever it may be – but be sure to celebrate more, have parties, tell jokes, have fun. It’s good for you personally and as a leader, it’s good for others, and it’s good for your organization.


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Jody Keller consults in the areas of management and organizational development and human resources management, having over 35 years of experience in the field. Previously, Jody held the position of Partner and Chief Administrative Officer of ParenteBeard LLC, the 20th largest accounting firm in the US with over 25 offices in 5 states.

She is currently the Executive in Residence at Penn State York’s Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, coaching the student fellows and facilitating relationships with businesses in York County. Prior to this role, she served in an interim CEO capacity at Steam Into History and Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, with responsibility for day-to-day operations and providing support in the search process for the permanent CEOs.  

 She received the ATHENA International Leadership award in 1994. Jody has served as a mentor for Leadership York's Mentorship York program.


The ATHENA Leadership Award® was inspired by the goddess of Greek mythology known for her strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment - qualities embodied in the ATHENA Leadership Model®. The ATHENA Leadership Award® is presented to a woman - or man - who is honored for professional excellence, community service, and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills. Nominations for the York County Economic Alliance ATHENA Award are being accepted until November 18, 2016.