Leaders set the tone for the group they lead. As Oprah says, this is one thing I know for sure. I have spent my career supporting other leaders. Most of the people who report to me have others who report to them and I have watched this human phenomenon with fascination.
My guess is, you have seen it too? Most of us work with other people and if you do, there is no way not to notice that people emanate energy- we all do. When someone walks into a room, you can sense their mood. A leader with high energy, and positivity leads a team who responds with energy and positivity. The opposite is true as well. A person with low energy, and negativity leads a team of low energy, negative people. Those who don’t vibrate at the same frequency, often get frustrated and leave if they have the chance, leaving those that do behind.
Most organizations have informal leaders as well. These are people who may not have a formal management title but due to their longevity, or their personality, they are a person who takes a leadership role within their work group. They can also have significant influence on group dynamics. Most of us have had the experience working with an energy sucker, or the opposite, an energy lifter.
You may not consider yourself a leader, but all people have a circle of influence or some sort of a leadership role. If you live with others, especially children, you have a leadership role at home. Home is likely where you have the most influence. Being a parent is the most influential position you can have. You are truly setting the tone for how your child interacts in the world.
Everyone has a unique circle of influence. There are CEOs who indirectly lead thousands of people. There are people like me who indirectly lead hundreds of people, and there are leaders whose circle of influence may be in their home, their friend group, or in their church.
As Uncle Ben told Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I believe this so strongly. Although, I think we all have a responsibility to be the best version of ourselves, and be mindful of how you are interacting within your circle of influence, leaders have a special responsibility. Leaders need to know they set the tone, and be aware of how their words, actions, and energy have ripples that can last forever. You really have to be a person of integrity, and high morals to be an effective leader. Abraham Lincoln said, “If you want to test someone’s character, give him power.” This is so true. I have been a student of leadership. It is truly an art, not a science. To be a “good” leader, natural ability helps, but there are so many tools and resources to help improve the skills that help you succeed in leading. I have watched leaders fail and I have watched leaders succeed, and I have a set of beliefs, backed by anecdotal observations, and a lot of reading, and support from leadership coaches. The number one advice I give new leaders is to pay attention to the energy you bring to every interaction. People will react to your mood, and follow your lead in how to respond to situations. Stay calm as much as possible, and lead by example. If you get angry, people will never forget it. I am fascinated by human behavior that replicates itself despite completely different people and circumstances.
As a student of leadership, watching this President lead has been so very painful for me. I am so afraid we have become numb to the tone he is setting. When you become the President of the United States, your circle of influence automatically becomes one of the widest in the world. Every word and action is analyzed, observed, critiqued, and often replicated. This is what worries me the most. It is extremely hard to resist the influence of the energy of a leader. Even if you are aware of the influence a powerful person has on you, it is difficult to not be affected by the energy of that person.
I don’t think even his supporters would argue that our current President is setting a positive, hopeful, compassionate tone. Every week, we have been bombarded by the news of another angry Twitter rant about someone or something that upsets him. People who support him, join in his anger and cheer him on. Those of us who don’t, feel angry that he’s so angry. I often just want to close my eyes and shut it all out. It’s too difficult. But I can’t. This week, the legislature is debating Medicaid cuts. I have dedicated my adult life to caring for seniors, and these cuts would be devastating to people I serve. It would be irresponsible of me to completely turn a blind eye to current events.
Awareness of how your energy is influenced by others does not make you immune to it. I know I am not immune to this. If you read my last post, I was angry about us taking a step back in the global leadership role to combat climate change. I still am. This anger I feel has been bothering me. In general, I pride myself in being an energy lifter. I know that anger that lingers can block you from living your best life and I don’t want to be in that bitter state all of the time. Writing has helped me release it.
One of the things I LOVE about reading is, when you are pondering a question, you will often discover something that answers your question. This is what happened to me this week as I was feeling guilty about my feelings of anger. One of my favorite Author’s, Glennon Doyle wrote, “Why do people think that anger isn’t kind? Every internal or external love revolution starts with a little anger. We should stop telling women and girls that they are not allowed to be sad or angry. Forbidding half of the human experience to half of the human race is quite dangerous. It hurts women. We assume that if we are angry, there is something wrong with us instead of considering that maybe we are angry because there is something wrong with the world. Perhaps that “something wrong” is even something that we could help change. Maybe anger is like compassion, in that it can point us directly toward the place in the world we were born to help heal.”
THANK YOU SO MUCH for that Glennon! Yes… this is it. The emotion of anger is not the problem. I release my shame about that. It is what you do with that anger that counts. If you are able to use the anger to spread love and compassion and ease the pain of others, that anger is a gift to the world. If you use the anger to spread more hate, and darkness, you are contributing to the problem not solving it.
I for one am going to stay alert, and pay attention to how I am reacting to the tone of the country and ask what I can do with the emotions that arise. I feel a sense of great responsibility to those within my circle of influence, and I want to continue to use that influence to help improve the energy of whatever space I am in.
I am curious to know if you have noticed yourself being affected by the tone?