The most fundamental job of a leader is to recruit, mobilize, inspire, focus, direct, and regularly refuel the energy of those they lead.
Energy, after all, is contagious–especially so if you’re a leader, by virtue of your disproportionate position and power. The way you’re feeling at any given moment profoundly influences how the people who work for you feel. How they’re feeling, in turn, profoundly influences how well they perform. A leader’s responsibility is not to do the work of those they lead, but rather to fuel them in every possible way to bring the best of themselves to their jobs every day.
Think about the best boss you’ve ever had. What adjectives come to mind to describe that person? My colleagues and I have asked this question of thousands of people over the past decade, and here are the ten most common answers:
Only three of those qualities have anything to do with intellect. More than two-thirds are emotional qualities–and they’re all positive ones. No one has ever said to us, “What I loved about my boss is how angry he got. It showed me how much he cared.” Negative emotions may prompt instant action, but they don’t inspire people in the long term. Even in small doses, negative energy can take a considerable toll on people. .
In one study, workers who felt unfairly criticized by a boss or felt they had a boss who didn’t listen to their concerns had a 30% higher rate of coronary disease than those with bosses they felt treated them fairly and were concerned with their welfare.
The offsetting news is that the regular expression of positive energy can transform a workplace in a remarkably short time. In a comprehensive review by the researchers Bruce Avolio and Fred Luthans of more than two hundred leadership studies, only one quality among leaders consistently had a positive impact on their employees. It was the capacity to recognize potentials that the employees didn’t yet fully see in themselves.
Put another way, the best leaders used their own positive energy to bolster their employees’ faith in their own abilities and to fuel their optimism and perseverance in the face of stresses and setbacks. That belief from a leader is intoxicating.
I remember feeling it as a young reporter at The New York Times when Arthur Gelb, then the managing editor, came to me with a story assignment that I wasn’t sure I could do at all, and he invariably left me feeling I was the only person on earth who could do it justice.
I remember observing it in Steve Ross, then chairman of Warner Communications (and later Time-Warner), who could make you feel like you were the smartest and most fascinating person in the world when you were with him.
I’ve seen it in Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures, whose warmth and enthusiasm when you’re with her prompted those who work for her to coin the phrase “being in the light” to describe having her full attention.
I’ve watched it with Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford, who strides into a room with such exuberance, confidence and high spirits that it’s virtually impossible not to be drawn in.
Leaders lead not just by the actions they take, but by the way they make us feel along the way. It’s not false or half-hearted praise most of are looking for, but rather simple recognition and appreciation for real effort and for our tangible contributions.
So what kind of boss are you? What adjectives would your employees choose to describe you? For starters, you could try out The Energy Audit for Leaders, which we developed at The Energy Project as a very rapid way to assess how you are influencing the energy of others. Even better, ask your employees to take it too–it’s an efficient way to get instant feedback about their own experiences.
Reprinted from TonySchwartz.com
Tony Schwartz is President and CEO of The Energy Project, a company that helps individuals and organizations fuel energy, engagement, focus, and productivity by harnessing the science of high performance. Tony’s most recent book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs that Energize Great Performance, was published in May 2010 and became an immediate The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Follow him on Twitter @TonySchwartz.