Leading for Results requires attending to personal energy to increase organizational motivation

Physical exercise and stretching out of your comfort zone are ways of increasing personal energy and leadership effectiveness. (Photo: Dennis Sparks)

Great leaders . . . focus attention on developing their intellect, understanding and managing emotions, taking care of their bodies, and attending to the deep beliefs and dreams that feed their spirits.
—Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee

A leader’s positive energy has a profound effect on a school’s ability to continuously improve the quality of teaching, learning, and relationships. There is no substitute for leaders’ authentic emotional and physical energy in creating and maintaining high levels of motivation within school communities. Conversely, leaders who are stressed, physically and emotionally depleted, and spiritually bereft find it difficult to successfully manage the intellectual and interpersonal challenges of their demanding work.

As Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz point out  in The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, “Everyone of our thoughts, emotions, and behavior has an energy consequence, for better or for worse.” They add, “To be fully engaged, we must be physically engaged, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.” To those ends they recommend making sacrosanct in one’s schedule time for activities that are enjoyable, fulfilling, and affirming and participating in regular periods of retreat, contemplation, and meditation.

Leaders’ energy can be heightened and sustained through the development of healthy habits, by stretching outside their comfort zone, and through connections to their deepest purposes, to their “best selves,” and to their colleagues (these connections will be explored more fully in my next essay.)

A great deal more is known about health-giving behaviors than most of us regularly practice, as Jane Brody notes in a New York Times article in which she describes longevity-enhancing exercise and diet. Loehr and Schwartz recommend eating more energy-rich foods such as low-fat proteins and complex carbohydrates and minimizing foods high in saturated fats, sugar, and simple carbohydrates. A National Public Radio segment concluded, “There’s solid evidence that aerobic fitness ups the odds of living longer. Research suggests that just 30 minutes a day, five days a week can keep you fit.”

Leaders are also energized when they stretch themselves out of their comfort zones, as Barbara Strauch concludes in “Harnessing Your Brain Power. “Research shows that it helps to search out people—and ideas—that are different, to rattle established brain patterns . . .,” Strauch concludes. “In particular, we need to push our brains in new ways to force them to use their most sophisticated section, the frontal lobes, the part right behind our foreheads that helps us focus, plan, and think strategically.”

Leading for Results “Six-Word Leadership Tool”:

Healthy habits increase our personal energy.

Strengthen your leadership practice by . . .

• bridging your personal “knowing-doing gap” by selecting a healthy habit whose development would increase your personal energy, your emotional well being, and your longevity. In particular, consider establishing a habit of regular exercise and replacing foods that deplete energy and create mood swings (such as sugar and simple carbohydrates) with those that promote a steady flow of energy and positive emotions.

• selecting an area of intellectual challenge that would “push our brains in new ways to force them to . . . focus, plan, and think strategically.”

• developing a “six-word leadership tool” to summarize your learning or to express an action you will take as a result of this essay. Please add your tool to the comment section of this blog and share it with one or more colleagues “back home.”

2 Responses to “Leading for Results requires attending to personal energy to increase organizational motivation”

  1. 1 G. Michael Abbott March 1, 2010 at 8:55 am

    In my experience, the usual reason or excuse given for not exercising is lack of time, followed by knee ailments. But for some people the real reason for not exercising, in the “helping” professions particularly, is the tendency to give to others and to deny oneself. It’s a belief that attending to your own needs is somehow selfish and self-centered. People who believe this may not recognize it, and feel that they will exercise when they have more time. But their focus on helping others never leaves time for themselves and when they do find time, they feel guilty using it for themselves. Sparks shows that exercise is an important ingredient in helping others.

    As the flight attendant says, Place the oxygen mask on yourself before you put one on your child. There is a reason for looking after yourself first.


  1. 1 The “myriad benefits” of regular physical activity « Leading for Results—Dennis Sparks' Blog Trackback on March 2, 2010 at 10:19 am

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