If you condense the thousands of books written on leadership, the hours of analysis, podcasts, ponderings and practices down to one word, what would it be? Influence? Hope? Results? Character? Intention? Competence? All are valid components but there is one essential ingredient and it is...


Napoleon said, “Leaders deal in hope.” Leaders motivate, they uplift, they inspire, they challenge, they change, they overcome, they influence - they deal in energy. Each of these qualities involves a transfer of energy from full (leader) to empty (follower).

Whether you are a team leader, a company director, a parent, leading a large organisation or just yourself, you are actually a CEO – a Chief Energy Officer. Strategy is what you have energy for. Your energy level is the governor upon your team’s energy levels/performance.

By extension, your ability to influence is in direct proportion to your level of your mental / emotional energy. To explain: those with high levels of energy are more resilient, creative, clear and effective. Alternatively, low energy renders people less productive, and resistant to handle change because thinking capability reduces. Our capacity to think creatively  decreases the more tired we are (and increases the more energised).

Here are two simple questions that give an indication of your current leadership ability:

  1. What is your energy level (out of ten) right now, as you read this?
  2. What is your energy rating generally?

Take a moment and write them down. What are they?

Now look at the behaviours that go with each level on the grid below


You will notice that levels 5/10 and below get progressively darker. This is the graduated sludge factor. We may enter the 5/10 and below for short times, but to remain there for a length of time becomes toxic, that is, self-polluting and potentially debilitating.

So, one key skill of leadership is that of intentional buoyancy (regaining high energy) despite inevitable push back. And leadership, by definition, is about going to places that have not been chartered before and so will be fraught with uncertainty, self-doubt and challenge.

And there is a compounding factor. We, as humans, are negatively geared. Jung said, “Humans are pessimists” and there is truth in this. We are deficit-focused. Our default setting is to focus on problems and what’s wrong... but more about this in upcoming blogs.

So, how do we use this information?

  • The first place to start is to confirm (or not) the above points. Observe your fellow workers – their energy levels and their levels of productivity. Observe yourself.
  • Give energy ratings to, say, staff or management meetings. Measure related productivity levels
  • Measure your own energy levels at different times of the day, after meeting with different people.
  • Recognise your own tricky thought patterns that thwart your good intentions and leave you flat.

Next, consider what could be used to effectively lift mental and emotional energy levels? What words, points of focus or perspectives re-energise. It’s a fascinating journey.

I believe the concept of 'energy' simplifies and begins to de-mystify the  black box of authentic leadership.