How to become a perfect leader? This question has been facing hundreds of scholars and practitioners worldwide. Hundreds of books were written to give talented leaders an impetus for pursuing their most ambitious goals. Hundreds of articles were published to explain the meaning of leadership and explore the multiple facets of leadership effectiveness and its implications for organizations’ bottom-line. Despite years into leadership research, firms are still in dire straits of achieving and sustaining their competitive advantage. Leadership still lacks a single definition. No universal recipe to develop effective leaders has been proposed so far. Bruce Schneider’s “Energy Leadership” is one of the many strategies proposed by practicing leaders to help organizations benefit from inspiring, self-motivating leadership.
The focus of Schneider’s “Energy Leadership” is on the analysis of energy and how it can contribute to the development of effective leadership and, ultimately, effective organizations. In his book, Schneider (2008) rests on the assumption that “energy is one word that I have seen that differentiates great leaders from average leaders” (p. vii). In his opinion, great leaders possess rich positive energy (Schneider, 2008). They also have a unique talent to spread their positive energy and infect others with it (Schneider, 2008). Only those who can capture the power and advantages of positive energy have the potential to become powerful leaders (Schneider, 2008). Unfortunately, many leaders are unaware of the hidden power of their positive energy. Many others face obstacles that hinder their leadership efforts by destroying the energy they already possess (Schneider, 2008). This being said, the author develops a unique system of energy evolution in leadership, which comprises seven distinct levels and outlines a comprehensive strategy for achieving the highest levels of proficiency and self-confidence in organizational leadership.
At the center of Schneider’s book is a small organization named O’Connell Consulting. Schneider (2008) believes that a small business is best suited to meet the needs of his leadership analysis. Throughout his book, Schneider (2008) proposes the basic layout for the so-called Energy Leadership process, which can foster personal, professional, and organizational development in the workplace. “The book chronicles the coaching process as it unfolds in O’Connell Consulting, and it describes the transformation and business turnaround that takes place as each person assumes the mantle of energy leadership” (Schneider, 2008, p. xv). In this context, it is important to explore the seven levels of energy leadership more thoroughly.
The first two levels of leadership make up the so-called first circle of awareness. Schneider (2008) describes Level 1 as victim-oriented thinking, at which most people lack any sense of purpose and meaning. Level 2 is the level of anger, righteousness, and control – people seek to control others in a way that allows them to control their own selves (Schneider, 2008). The second circle of awareness covers levels 3, 4, and 5. Leaders who manage to reach energy Level 3 are already prepared to assume greater responsibility for what they do, think, and feel (Schneider, 2008). It is at this level of the energy chart that organizational leaders also realize that they can choose to react or not to react to various stimuli in their external environment. By the time leaders reach Level 4, their true desire to help others gradually replaces the past feelings of resentment and anger (Schneider, 2008). Leaders at this level of energy functioning experience compassion and assume a service leadership perspective (Schneider, 2008). The key message of Level 5 is reconciliation, implying that it is time for leaders to reconcile rather than emphasize differences (Schneider, 2008). Here finally comes the third circle of awareness, which also includes Levels 6 and 7 of energy transformation. Level 6 is that of synthesis, when leaders bring separate elements together to create a holistic picture of the organizational reality (Schneider, 2008). By reaching Level 7, they finally manage to leave their judgmental attitudes behind, while capturing the essence of passion and self-transcendence in their organizational and personal accomplishments (Schneider, 2008). These are the seven levels a leader must pass to achieve what Schneider (2008) calls the highest level of consciousness. He believes that six months are enough for the entire process to take place.
At the heart of Schneider’s (2008) energy leadership philosophy is a belief that leaders do not face any challenges and issues. Rather, these are the possibilities and opportunities leaders should use to transform themselves and their organizations (Schneider, 2008). Throughout his book, Schneider traces the gradual transformation of O’Connell Consulting into a mature organization. The author describes the strategies used by leaders to define their level of energy and determine the best ways to shift it higher (Schneider, 2008). In addition to the seven levels of energy, Schneider (2008) lists the four stumbling blocks to achieving the energy level of self-transcendence. These are limiting beliefs about self, false assumptions about the past, false interpretations of the current reality, and the growing scope of inner criticism. For each level and stumbling block, Schneider (2008) offers unique illustrations and rich examples from the life of O’Connell Consulting. These examples add vividness and brightness to the book as a whole, while making it sound more practical and intensifying its application potential in the current organizational realities.
To sum up, the book offers a coherent insight into the nature of energy transformations leaders should undergo to excel in the workplace and translate their talents into a strong organizational advantage. The book could be equally valuable in the study of organizational leadership and the development of effective leadership models. Whether the strategy proposed by Schneider (2008) could be used outside O’Connell Consulting is a big question. Apparently, such models warrant more extensive empirical research to improve their applicability in diverse organizational settings.
- Schneider, B.D. (2008). Energy leadership: Transforming your workplace and your life from the core. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.