“Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then to help orchestrate the energy of those around you.” — Peter Drucker, professor and author of dozens of books on economics, management, and leadership
Imagine rushing to an emergency room with severe stomach cramps. Without any examination, no knowledge of your medical history, or asking any questions about your symptoms, the doctor who has never seen you before says “I know exactly what’s wrong” and prescribes a powerful medication. Such treatment without diagnosis would be considered malpractice in medicine. The same is true in looking for ways to mobilize and energize others. There are many interconnected factors that inhibit or enhance energy. We can’t really motivate others, but we can create a high-energy environment that dramatically magnifies and expands the energy of individuals, teams, or organizations.
Those high-energy environments are the result of these timeless leadership principles:
Responsibility for Choices — People who feel victimized and powerless don’t have a lot of energy for change and improvement. Many teams, and sometimes whole organizations, can become badly infected with the Victimitis Virus. This often involves “blame storming” and developing excuses for not taking action since “it’s not our fault.” Turning this situation around often starts with getting people to see the problem and its paralyzing effects. Next steps may involve clarifying what is outside of our control, within our control, and what we can influence.
Authenticity — A young boy came home and told his Dad that the other kids kept stealing his pencils at school. The father stomped off to the school to complain. “It’s not a matter of the pencils,” he bellowed to his son’s teacher, “I get plenty of those from work. It’s the principle of the thing that bothers me most.” An environment that doesn’t ring true with honesty, integrity, and trust is an environment that drains energy. My authenticity in changing me to change them is a key element in maintaining that environment. It is supported by openness and constant feedback.
Passion and Commitment — The 19th century writer and British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, wrote, “It was not reason that besieged Troy; it was not reason that sent forth the Saracen from the desert to conquer the world; that inspired the crusades; that instituted the monastic orders; it was not reason that produced the Jesuits; above all, it was not reason that created the French Revolution. Man is only great when he acts from the passions; never irresistible but when he appeals to the imagination.” High energy environments brim with passion and deep commitment. Humor and fun is often a key part of this. The Laughter Index is high and few people suffer from jest lag.
Spirit and Meaning — Meaningless work that doesn’t connect with a deeper part of us will drain energy. In recounting how his technology company, Lockheed Martin, survived and eventually prospered after an industry downturn reduced their revenues by 50%, CEO, Norman Augustine, points to a key principle in mobilizing and energizing others, “The high sentiments always win in the end, the leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.”
Growing and Developing — When we align an individual’s personal goals with those of the family, team, or organization, we tap into huge energy reserves. It’s similar to the healing process identified by the famous medical missionary, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, “The witch doctor succeeds for the same reason all the rest of us succeed. Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. They come to us not knowing the truth. We are best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.” This alignment and energy expansion also comes from helping others constantly grow and develop.
Focus and Context — Our vision, values, and purpose are at the center of our being. They are also the wellspring from which our energy flows. Individuals, teams, and organizations with a strong sense of self, clear direction, and meaningful purpose have a high degree of energy. A fuzzy focus or cloudy context (how I want to live my life or the team/organization’s culture) leads to a scattered life and diffused energy.
The level of energy found in the people we’re trying to mobilize depends largely on how effective we’ve been in these dimensions of leadership.