Heliotropic Leadership and Why your Company Needs It

Bismack Biyombo, professional NBA player with the Orlando, Magic, has a style all his own. Having previously played with the Toronto, Raptors, he once led his team to a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers with 26 rebounds (wow!), four blocks, but only seven points. Basketball Insiders says Biyombo is “the quintessential energy guy--doing the dirty work and not needing the ball. He rebounds, sets screens and uses effort to effect the game.” Former teammate, Kyle Lowry, described Biyombo as “our lion”. He is one that not only gets his job done, but because of his infectious energy, inspires his teammates to get theirs done as well.

Recent research links leadership with this sort of infectious, positive energy. Studies have found that a person, or leader, who displays positive energy is four times more effective in producing desired outcomes than an influential leader. Instead of focusing on getting people to do what they want (like a leader of influence), an energetic leader inspires and uplifts those around them, essentially aiding those around them to accomplish goals they themselves want, not only what the leader wants.

Let’s go back to high school science class for a moment. What is the heliotropic effect? And no, it’s not flying a helicopter over Costa Rica. A flower placed on your table will naturally gravitate, grow and bloom toward the closest window that is bringing in sunlight. This is the heliotropic effect. Leaders, too, can have this sort of effect on those around them. The more positive they are, the more others will turn to them, like a flower to the sun, to be led by them. These types of people, sometimes called positive energizers, are generous and make others feel great by being genuine and kind. A positive result to this is that they effortlessly move up the corporate ladder.

What makes Bismack Biyombo exceptional? What distinguishes people of energy from the rest? In their research, Harvard Business Review claims they do five things very well:

  1. They create a compelling vision by focusing on possibilities rather than current or past problems.
  2. They help others feel fully engaged.
  3. They are continually learning even from their other colleagues.
  4. Energizers are goal-oriented but flexible about how to get there–they allow progress to occur in unexpected ways.
  5. Finally, energizers speak their mind, maintaining integrity between their words and actions.

This might be a good time to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect for a minute on what kind of worker you are. Are you energized and overall happy at work, or do you unplug from those around you, counting down the minutes until you clock out? Do others want to be around you? If you have an energizing, heliotropic boss, chances are you feel engaged and motivated, which will lead to overall higher work performance. What exactly is your work environment? Could it stand to be a little more uplifting?

If you feel that you, or your workplace, needs a boost from the Heliotropic Energizer Bunny, try these four suggestions:

Build High-Quality Connections - The greatest growth comes in making meaningful connections with others, which generates energy within relations. Faced with a looming project? Tackle it with the help of a few other colleagues and build those social connections that will continue on through every workday.

Create Energizing Events - Steer away from content and stuffy meetings and organize events that will promote unity in an uplifting way. Perhaps it is a luncheon or other team-building event. Whatever it is, make sure it is promoted and carried out with contagious, positive enthusiasm.

Create a “Giving” Culture - You know that warm feeling you feel whenever you do something good for someone else? Bringing that into the work environment will generate a natural energy that will increase positive emotions and chase away negative ones. In turn, receiving help generates energy in the form of gratitude. Everyone wins!

Map Relational Energy - Identifying the trouble areas of a company will help determine where there needs to be more work in positive energy. This is a tough one, but can be rather revealing. Perhaps adding one energy-related anonymous question to a weekly set of network questions such as “When you interact with _________ how does it affect your energy?” Answers can range from “very energizing, neutral, de-energizing”. Over time this will give you a good idea which groups of people need more meaningful connections, uplifting events planned, etc.

Psychologist Harry Cohen made an exceptional TED talk on this idea of heliotropic energy. I highly recommend listening to it. In it he explains that our intentions are contagious and that negative critical feedback stings much more than positive. In fact, he said you need five “atta boys” to every one “what were you thinking?” That comment stuck with me. He also said “When someone leaves your office, make sure you remember how you made them feel.” I hope we will all be a little more intentional today, more positive. You’ll brighten the day for those around you and, in turn, brighten your own.

Tell Us: Think of one person in your life who exudes positive energy--how can you implement what they do into your own daily routine?

Written by Mike Williams

I am a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of business experience. My goal with this blog is to pass on some of what I have learned in order to help you achieve success in business.

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