Helming a company is complicated. There is a strategic vision to develop, employees to inspire, interpersonal complexities to navigate. As you start your entrepreneurial journey, it's natural to worry you might not be cut out for such a demanding role.
Fine-tuning your leadership skills may be the project of a lifetime, but determining if you have the most essential building block to lead people is actually simpler than you probably think, according to a new article from Yale's Emma Seppälä and University of Michigan's Kim Cameron in the Harvard Business Review.
"The greatest predictor of success for leaders is not their charisma, influence, or power. It is not personality, attractiveness, or innovative genius," the pair write. Instead it's a quality called "relational energy." Having it can help your company be up to four times more successful.
How to improve profitability and productivity by a factor of four
Psychologists have long known that some people simply seem to annoy others for no immediately apparent reason. It's not that they're gloomy or grumpy. Even when they're trying their best to charm, something about their way of being instantly irks others.
For an upcoming book, Seppälä and Cameron interviewed thousands of people and discovered some folks exist on the opposite end of that spectrum. These people are just natural rays of sunshine. They walk into the room and others feel brighter and more energized. These folks have great "relational energy," and they are the natural leaders among us.
"You've met people like this. They're like the sun. These people walk into a room and make it glow. Everyone becomes energized, enthused, inspired, and connected. These incandescent people are positive energizers," Seppälä and Cameron write. "Other members of these networks are depleting: the ones who leave the others feeling deenergized, demoralized, diminished, and uninspired. You know the ones -- they sap your energy every time."
I imagine many of you reading who are nodding along like I am. We all know a few sunbeams and (unfortunately) a few vampires. But while it's no shock that some people are energy sucks and others human battery packs, the positive impacts of having an energizer as a leader might surprise you.
"Numerous studies run by our group and our colleagues show that positive energizers produce substantially higher levels of engagement, lower turnover, and enhanced feelings of well-being among employees," they report.
Those working for energizers even have lower stress hormone levels and less inflammation. That's great for health, but also for business. "In organizations, superior shareholder returns occur, and in some of our studies, outcomes exceeded industry averages in profitability and productivity by a factor of four or more," Seppälä and Cameron write.
One question will reveal if you're an energizer
It's good to know that being an energizer has the potential to up to quadruple outcomes at your company. But how do you know whether you're one of the benighted souls who seems to suck the energy out of others or lucky enough to be blessed with tons of relational energy? Seppälä and Cameron suggest a simple test -- just ask the people you work with.
"We asked members of hundreds of organizations -- from mom-and-pop startups to multinational corporations -- this question: 'When I interact with [person X] in my organization, what happens to my energy?'" Seppälä and Cameron explain. When colleagues say a leader recharged their batteries, "it catapults performance to a new level," they report, listing a huge number of benefits from improved innovation to better team cohesion.
The lengthy article explains why being an energizer is so transformative for organizations. But even more usefully, it also offers advice on how to become more energy giving if, after asking around, you find you have room for improvement in this area (as you might guess, designing a life that gives you joy and energy helps you bring joy and energy to others). So if you're convinced about the power of relational energy, read more here.