For leaders, energy can be in short supply. Meetings all day. Team members who are energy-sapping. Events that drag on for longer than anticipated. Those leaders who can manage themselves, to maximize their moments of high-energy, will be at a great advantage.
People seem to be attracted to vivacious people. Those with vigor, vim, zest. People who are enthusiastic, who have a certain dynamism. It’s as if they transmit their energy into you.
Leaders who are high in energy in the right moments can inspire.
Stanislavski, one of the original and greatest teachers of stage acting, said that a performance on stage requires enormous amounts of energy. Physical energy, yes; but mental energy in particular. Full concentration, awareness of the situation and what you are doing, and your impact on others.
Of course, leaders should not be acting, in the sense of “being someone else.”
But they do perform—a lot.
It may not be on a stage, but everyone else is still looking at them—expecting things of them.
For example, one of the principal roles of a leader is to communicate. For Stanislavski, the definition of communication is “making someone else see what you see.” And for us, leading well means communicating well all the time. And this requires a lot of energy, too.
The most visible leader, the CEO, is always on. Our own research in to the life of a CEO corroborates this. There is no down time for a CEO. It can be exhausting.
What’s more, when they speak it’s a public performance, whether they want it to be or not, and they have to be very careful what they say. Every statement is scrutinized and its importance magnified; everything they do is perceived as bigger, sharper, and better. Any nod of the head, smile or frown is interpreted and given a meaning. They can say nothing casually. A relaxed “Have you thought about x?” turns into “The CEO said…” and becomes an instruction to be followed.
They are constantly in the spotlight; never in the shadows. In a meeting, others can mentally leave the room to do something else. Not the CEO.
The trouble is, when there is no “off” switch, the battery runs down fast.
Energy depletes fast. In our research, CEOs told us that health and family time suffers. They find it really tough to find moments of peace and quiet; time to reflect.
So, how can leaders manage their energy? How to keep some in reserve? How to boost energy so others gain from it?
As Schwartz and McCarthy say, manage your energy, not your time. In other words, recognize that time is a finite resource, but energy can be replenished, expanded, renewed.
There are 4 sources of energy, they say:
- Body: Physical energy—especially found through healthy sleep habits, great nutrition and so on.
- Mind: Figuring out what is the most important thing to do each day—ignoring distractions. They encourage doing 90 minutes of intense work, then taking a break.
- Emotions: Managing the negative emotions of “fight” or “flight” which make it impossible to think clearly, and drawing on all your reserves of positive energy.
- Spirit: Doing what you really enjoy, and living by your own values.
So, as actors are taught to do, River encourages leaders to “turn their lights on” at the right times. It means letting others see the energy, light and vitality inside them.