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Conserving a Leader’s Energy

Leaders occupy positions of high visibility and are often buffeted by powerful forces. Internal and external pressures build and can test or distort a leader’s values and judgment. An important function of followership is minimizing unnecessary pressure that may contribute to this distortion.

Courageous followers help leaders make choices about demands that push their personal and professional lives out of balance. Leaders are often driven personalities; they use their bountiful energy to inspire or cajole the organization to fulfill its purpose. But this bountiful energy isn’t boundless, even if the leader thinks it is. It must be conserved and renewed. Questions we should ask and consider include:

What kinds of activities refresh the leader?

Is there sufficient time scheduled for these activities and is it vigorously defended?

What activities take the greatest toll on the leader’s creativity and temperament?

How can energy-draining activities be minimized or prepared for in ways that reduce the toll they take?

How can we organize to permit the leader to focus more on high-payback activities?

What functions has the leader always done that should now be delegated?

What activities are central to the leader’s role and should not be delegated, but should be better supported?

If internal pressure is driving the leader to do “too much,” we must confront her with the consequences. If the leader is micromanaging we must challenge her to trust more. With a micromanager, we should avoid slipping into a pattern of not attending to the details of our work “because the leader will change it anyway.” This reinforces a leader’s belief that she has to “do everything” and contributes to the downward spiral of overload and fatigue.

The courageous follower is willing to both comfort and confront the leader, to assume additional responsibilities to relieve the leader, or to initiate dialogue to help the leader examine her own contribution to the overload.