The Four Energies of Leadership

“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.

What a great quote and taken from the excellent book: The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

The concept of the Four Energies of Leadership  was developed by the McClain Group back in early 2000 and then written about in another excellent leadership book by Steve Radcliff on ‘Future, Engage, Deliver’.

The concept is simple. Every thought, every emotion and every feeling we have provides energy – whether that that is positive or whether that drains us.  Whilst we all have the same number of hours in any one day, we have infinite access to both the quality and quantity of our energy. And we draw that energy from four sources:

1. Physical Energy

Our physical energy refers to a broad range of aspects: our sleep, our fuel, our recovery,  our resilience.  This energy drives our every day performance levels. It’s how we show up in the world, when we are interacting with others, our physical ‘presence’ that enables us to keep active, moving and replenished.

2. Intellectual Energy

Our intellectual energy is that which focuses on data,  on ideas, on logic, on rational, our ability to debate, articulate and conceptualise. This energy enables us to innovate, organise and move forwards. This is a strong organisational energy that helps us to make sense of the world around us, to structure thinking, to create ‘SMART’ goals, to implement to review.

3. Emotional Energy

Our emotional energy is our ability to relate to others, to build rapport, to engage,  our empathy, our desire to understand, to listen, to explore our feelings and our enjoyment of life. This energy is essential in creating engagement, followership, partnership and establishing collaborative ways of working.

4. Spiritual Energy

Our spiritual energy is our focus on our purpose, our reason for being, our vision for ourselves and the organisation, the values that we bring, our integrity, our conviction and our inspiration. Our spirit energy enables us to focus on our future and possibilities. It’s the legacy stuff of leadership, the difference we most want to make in the world.

Organisational Culture

Creating a strong and high performing culture requires many different facets. In my view this model is one of the foundational pillars leaders can build in driving transformation. Whether that’s transformation of the self, of teams or of organisational performance.

In my experience of working as a coach to many different leaders there is a pre-dominance of physical and intellectual energy that exists in organisations and less attention and appreciation given to the emotional and spiritual energies. This may explain why there are engagement issues in organisations. People connect to people. People want to be heard and respected. They want to know the reason why. They want to feel connected to something bigger.  When you can connect all four dots, then magic can truly start to happen.

Personal Energies & Insight

As always the first step is to be tuned into your own energy preferences. Have a think about what your preferred energies are and those that perhaps you use less. Maybe you are someone with a high degree of passion and sense of purpose. Perhaps you are working in an organisation that values intellect, debate and drive. Maybe you are struggling to get your team engaged on a new initiative or perhaps you have not received the pay rise or career growth that you were expecting.

Once you have explored your energy preferences, then turn outwards and think about the organisation you work in. What energies do you see or hear around you? When you talk to others, who or what gives you energy? Similarly who or what energy takes it away from you? What insights do you have?

The four energies is a framework or a lens to seek further understanding about your performance and your motivation. It can be very helpful especially when your energy feels depleted. Take a step back and use this framework to assess what is going on right now and feel free to share with your teams too.

Here’s a final quote for you:

“Simply put, a leader’s job is to energise others. Notice that I don’t say it’s part of the job; it is their job. There is no ‘time off’ when a leader isn’t responsible for energising others. Every interaction a leader has is either going to positively energise those around them or negatively energise them.” —Noel Tichy



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