Energy Leadership – A Fresh Perspective to Sustain Performance

As the CEO of a specialized Perioperative Services consulting company, I am frequently thinking about the subject of leadership within my company as well as how we embody leadership during a client engagement. The challenges currently occurring within the healthcare industry requires different thinking when evaluating talent along with engaging and developing people at every level. Tried and true “leadership training” may no longer be sufficient nor interesting enough to meet today’s unique demands. At the very least, I was interested in finding a new perspective.

I became aware of the concept of “Energy Leadership” through a colleague, Belda Villalon, from Progressive Synergy Coaching & Consulting Group. What stood out for me as a fresh perspective in our initial discussions was a focus on managing energy and values rather than strategies and tactics. I found this a useful jumping off place when considering the need to find sustainable solutions for our clients. For good reason, there is a desire to implement “best practices” developed through trial and error and backed up by research. The part of this I find most challenging, however, is how to ensure that your client can sustain those practices over time. My goal is to coach my staff or a client to their best performance.

As I am writing this, the 2016 Olympics have just ended. We have all watched remarkable and record-breaking performances in many sports from around the world. The swimming events are always the ones I enjoy the most. How can we not be amazed at the performances of Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, and the US relay teams as examples? Most amazing is the question of how Michael Phelps could sustain his level of performance over the course of 5 Olympics? While cheering them on through my television, I began thinking about this issue of energy leadership. High performing athletes always speak of the importance of their relationship with their coaches to their performance success. Together, they know the technical skills of swimming, they know their competition; they know the current statistics and world records; they adjust their diets and routines, and they know the conditions of the pool. That can be said of all the athletes as well as all teams within an organization. Something additional moves them to the top. Along with their coaches, they learn to identify what they personally value, which can differ among athletes, (competition, personal best, redemption, team results, mentoring a new swimmer, legacy, etc.) and then focus their energy in alignment with what they value. In this way, energy works for, rather than against them, and they increase their ability to shift and adapt their energy and the energy of those around them in response (especially when being part of a relay team).

We need this same recognition within healthcare. We can provide inservice training, take courses, set new departmental goals, acquire new tools, respond to new regulations and adjust our practices based on research. But…… do we sustain those practices and how do we become flexible enough to adapt in real time to the changing environment? Teamwork & performance resulting from alignment of values and energy is a key. We often receive requests to document our process for the work completed. We can always develop and document a process but in order for changes to be sustainable, it requires leadership and management skills to ensure an environment in which all staff choose to contribute to improved results. People may know what to do but they need to choose to do it. Environment/culture, process, and accountability are necessary components for sustainability. It has been our experience that a focus on process is the highest priority within organizations including the development of Process Improvement departments and increased Lean Management skill levels. We are very supportive of this focus, however, adapting the culture and means of accountability get a secondary focus, and yet one could argue these are the components that directly impact sustainability of a new process.

For this reason, I participated in a personal Energy Leadership Index Assessment as a first step to see what I could learn about myself and the value it may provide for others. This is a process of becoming aware of how I respond to different situations and identifying strategies for utilizing the type of energy that will best serve me and those around me. It is a process of awareness of who I am and what I value as a framework for energy management to help others take sustainable action. While the results of the assessment remain personal, I offer these concepts that I am learning as a springboard for what might interest you.


Leadership is simply interaction where influence occurs. The influence can be positive or negative, focused consciously or unintentionally, and the impact can be minimal or maximal. A leader is the individual in the interaction who knowingly or unknowingly creates the greater influence in the other person.

Our world tends to define leaders, and therefore leadership, within the context of formally defined roles found within corporations, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and political and community concerns. True leaders, however, are not confined to office walls and are not limited to specific positions within those walls. They are found in families, groups, sports, education, health fields, and within all levels and roles in small and large organizations. (“Organization” for purposes of understanding energy leadership means two or more people, in any walk of life, who are working or communicating together for a similar goal or purpose.)

Equally important to the above, is to remember that leadership includes self-leadership, which is the ability to motivate yourself to do what you desire to do.

Energy Leadership

Energy Leadership is based on the work of Bruce D. Schneider, founder of The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. It is the process that develops a personally effective style of leadership that positively influences and changes not only yourself, but also those with whom you work and interact, as well as your organization. By learning and applying the principles and concepts of Energy Leadership, you can increase your ability to shift your own energy and the energy of those around you. When you do that, you will help to inspire yourself. 0thers feel a greater sense of purpose, get more done with much less effort and stress, and attract positive people and success to you. Everyone is a leader either by choice or default. Every interaction presents the opportunity to lead and have a positive impact on others. A system focused on energy leadership teaches individuals to consciously choose to use their ability to influence and impact others to bring about results that are positive for themselves, others, their organization and its stakeholders.

Anabolic and Catabolic Energy

For all practical purposes, there are two kinds of energy: anabolic and catabolic.

Anabolic describes energy that is constructive, expanding, fueling, healing and growth-oriented. Anabolic energy helps move you forward and achieve positive, long-term, successful results and is useful in leading others in the same direction. Using anabolic energy allows you to have a more complete and conscious view of what is going on around you, and to more easily come up with solutions and innovations.

Catabolic energy, on the other hand, is draining, resisting, and contracting energy. While catabolic energy provides you with a boost to combat what you perceive to be a stressful situation, it also is distracting and acts like a blinder through which you only see a limited view of the situation, thus reducing your choices. Though it may offer short term benefit, when used on a long-term basis, it imparts mental, emotional, and physical tolls that are potentially destructive to you, your organization, and those around you.

Research shows that the most successful leaders in life are those with high levels of anabolic energy. Those who lead using catabolic energy get results in the short term, however, they cannot sustain success. No matter who you are or what you do in life, increasing your anabolic energy level will help you better perform whatever you do.

I recently came across a quote from Sir Richard Branson, “Train people so they can leave, treat them well enough so they do not want to”. In the world of healthcare with changing demands and evolving roles, our approach to others is critical. Managing relationships and teamwork is more important than managing hierarchy if you want to survive the change. Great leaders are not only able to motivate, inspire and bring out greatness in others, but also in themselves. The question isn’t whether or not you are a leader; the question is….how will you lead?