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Leadership in the Eye of the Storm

What is Your Leadership Energy?

· Leadership

Do you use your leadership energy to fight to get there first or to turn problems (i.e. obstacles) into opportunities to overcome obstacles (i.e. something that forces you to “stretch” in order to reach something that’s worth achieving)?

Bruce Schneider, in his book Energy Leadership (2009), defines energy as the potential people have for success in life. Energy is an individual’s potential output realized through interactions with everyone, including themselves.

  1. Apathy; you see yourself as a victim, are lethargic and lack engagement.
  2. Anger; you live in conflict with yourself and others, are defiant and behave aggressively.
  3. Forgiveness; you take responsibility for your choices and actions, are cooperative and don’t let others stand in your way of what you want.
  4. Compassion; you show concern for others, want to help others and take little personally.
  5. Peace; you reconcile differences, accept that things just are and find opportunities in all challenges.
  6. Joy; you synthesize the parts into a whole, are empathetic, and go beyond your ego to experience wisdom.
  7. Absolute passion; you are non-judgmental, are able to consciously use your strengths to your benefit and that of others and can create anything you choose.

You have the power to choose your energy level

Everyone has the power to choose which level they want to be at. For example, you have the power to choose the feelings that will define and guide your behavior in any situation:

Level 1: “I hate myself”

Level 2: “I hate you”

Level 3: “I forgive you”

Level 4: “I feel for you”

Level 5: “I understand you”

Level 6: “I am you”

Level 7: “I am”

When you win or lose, you choose the level of energy you want to be at:

Level 1: “I lose”

Level 2: “You lose”

Level 3: “I win”

Level 4: “You win”

Level 5: “We both win”

Level 6: “Everyone always wins”

Level 7: “Winning and losing are illusions”

Good leaders achieve level 6. Great leaders achieve level 7.

Are you an anabolic or a catabolic leader?

The choice of energy level also defines whether you are an anabolic leader or a catabolic leader. Catabolic leaders break down all aspects of an organization, community or nation, including the people in it. Anabolic leaders have the ability to motivate and inspire others to be the best that they can be.

Lincoln, the Roosevelts and Johnson were anabolic leaders. They were great leaders because they learned how to combine the power of stability and trustworthiness with passion and confidence. It’s what was referred to in different press articles in the lead-up to the November 2018 midterm elections, in the Washington Post and the Huffington Post, as “purple leadership”.

Although applied to political figures who take a bipartisan approach, purple leadership is applicable to any leader who progresses through the seven levels of leadership energy in order to lead based on a sense of the nobility of power associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, and creativity. Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of our leaders in public office, and too many in the private sector, practice a very monotone style of leadership with at most a pretense of energy level 3.

Our leaders have a low level of energy with high catabolic potential

It seems those who represent the leadership style and energy of our nation have forgotten that leading is a way we help move people into action, including ourselves, instead of a bag of carrots and sticks to coerce action or avoid it altogether. Becoming a “good” leader involves positively influencing and changing yourself first.

In order to “graduate” beyond energy level 3, anyone in a leadership position or aspiring to one must first gain greater self-awareness to overcome their personal gremlins (that little voice of self-doubt), assumptions and limiting beliefs, in order to then positively influence others to overcome theirs. The majority of those in leadership positions today unfortunately seem to pursue increased energy levels to strengthen others’ gremlins, assumptions and limiting beliefs.

It’s time our leaders took a refresher course on leadership and leading. Leadership is neither an art nor a science. Nor is a leader born or made. Leadership is a craft that is “ingrown”. Good leaders are determined to get it right for the sake of leadership itself, not in pursuit of power or influence over others. Good leaders apply their skills and knowledge to match form with content, to make the world intelligible to others, and they take responsibility for making it meaningfully constructive for others, instead of meaningfully self-aggrandizing.

However, “excellent” leadership is what Matthew B. Crawford, in his wonderful book entitled Shop Class as Soulcraft (2009) refers to as “knowing how” as opposed to “knowing that”. Great leaders know how to control their energy and the energy around them to make it work for, not against, themselves and others, because they have superior leadership craftsmanship.

Our leaders need to stop trying to slum it and go back to the leadership shop floor.

Astrid Ruiz Thierry, Principal, UpBoost LLC

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