Reviewed by Zak Vaudo
There is a force in life that can shape regular men and women into great leaders, if accessed and understood properly. If harnessed properly, it can inspire confidence and trust in customers and fellow employees alike. If ignored, it can bring down entire corporations. This force is energy, and Bruce D. Schneider wants to help you understand it and use it to your full advantage with his book, Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace and Your Life from the Core. Schneider’s book aims to serve as a guide to the struggling leader-to-be by steering him or her along the path of positive energy work, teaching the seven energy levels and four blockades of energy movement, and revealing helpful techniques for shifting the energy levels of co-workers and customers.
Schneider speaks to the reader through a recounting of his real-life interactions with Richard, the C.E.O of O’Connell Consulting. The company is in drastic need of help: the company is floundering, the employees’ attitudes are underwhelming at best, and all seems lost for the company’s future. Enter Schneider, who tells Richard (and, by default, the reader) that the key to this turnaround simply lies in the energy of the company and those involved. Schneider explains that there are varying levels of energy (seven, to be precise) that an individual can operate on, and that one must guide his or her self towards higher levels to be more efficient, functional, and influential.
Schneider’s seven energy levels can best be described as levels of self: feelings, thoughts and actions embodied into increasing levels of energy. An individual operating at Level 1 (i.e. Richard’s secretary Christina) tends to feel and act victimized, apathetic and generally uncaring. An individual at Level 7 feels absolute passion for his or her job/task and is in prime position to create non-judgmentally. These seven levels are grouped into three major sections: Level 1 and 2 under “self” (concerned primarily with themselves), Levels 3 through 5 “self-mastery” (moving beyond the self and concerned about those around them), and Levels 6 and 7 “self-transcendence” (no self, no others, only the idea that all are working towards).
There are, as always, stumbling blocks to prevent people from traversing levels. Schneider believes that these blocks are predominately internal. One’s limited beliefs, false assumptions, false interpretations, and “inner critic” can prevent even the most determined individual from progressing forward. Once the blocks have been identified, in Schneider’s words, they can be easily removed and development can continue.
Transcending the energy levels allows for better connection between persons at work. An individual moves from complete self-absorption to an understanding of his or her co-workers and clients, onward to an almost Emersonian “oversoul” level of understanding. When one can harness their energy and move between the levels effectively, a powerful leader can be created that can guide others towards success, as was the case with Richard and O’Connell Consulting. By the book’s end, Schneider has demonstrated the successful transformation of O’Connell Consulting and its employees from struggling to strong, all by knowing their energy and working with it.
Energy Leadership takes an interesting approach to leadership and management, blending organization and self-empowerment with the New Age concept of energy as a unifying constant that can be controlled and aimed for one’s own purposes. Taking this angle makes Schneider’s book refreshing in the midst of other leadership books, many of which seem to be simply clones of each other. Attitude is extremely important in leading and persuading others, so Schneider hits on a vital point: how can someone influence or lead people if he or she doesn’t even know where their own energies lie? While there’s no telling if Schneider’s model is the perfect representation, it is most certainly a good starting point. Schneider’s model encompasses many common management aspects (collaborative management, Total Quality Management and “New” Management models) as examples of how an organization operating efficiently within their energy levels can function. Schnieder’s book assumes that the quality of the individual person directly relates to and affects the quality of the company, which in turn relates to and affects the quality of the product. Under Total Quality Management, one must anticipate the needs of the customer, and this is difficult without leveling oneself first. Through this and collaborative “New” management (which includes, but is not limited to, employees working in smaller groups) one can tap the mid-levels of energy—concerning themselves with those around them, moving towards the common idea.
Schneider’s book is highly recommended for managers who want a different approach to helping their organizations thrive, as well as individuals who simply wish to become valuable leaders. Schneider’s terminology is clearly laid out for the reader to understand, key points are phrased simply and repeated throughout the book for clarity and reaffirmation. Energy Leadership even includes personal exercises to practice and links to a handful of very valuable leadership videos that the reader can watch as supplemental material, making this book more of an interactive experience than a simple read-through. While the energy idea may be difficult to grasp for some, the concept is still clear and key: you must first master yourself, then focus on your surroundings, then the common idea of the company/corporation as a whole. Forget efficiency charts and expensive counseling: energy is the key to success, and harnessing it properly will bring about positive change in any organization.