The pandemic has taken a significant toll on the well-being and energy of so many, making “positively energizing” leaders more crucial than ever, write Emma Sepal and Kim Cameron for Harvard Business Review.

Sepal and Cameron have studied people in terms of their networks of relationships — communities, organizations and families — and observed that certain relationships within those networks are extraordinarily life-enhancing and uplifting. The result is extraordinary performance. In particular, they’ve found there’s usually one person at the center of these networks who’s responsible for most of the forward motion — not to mention well-being — of all the rest. They call them positive energizers.

Energizers’ greatest secret is that by uplifting others through authentic, values-based leadership, they tend to also uplift both themselves and their organizations. Positive energizers demonstrate and cultivate virtuous actions, including forgiveness, compassion, humility, kindness, trust, integrity, honesty, generosity, gratitude and recognition in the organization. As a result, everyone flourishes.

To identify energizers, they asked members of hundreds of organizations — from mom-and-pop startups to multinational corporations — this question: When I interact with [person X] in my organization, what happens to my energy?” In other words, each person was asked to rate themselves on a scale from very positively energized to very de-energized when they interacted with another person in their enterprise. Each member of a senior team, for example, rated their interaction with every other member of the senior team.

The overall finding? When leaders display positive relational energy, it catapults performance to a new level. More specifically, positive energizers:

  • Are themselves far higher performers than others,
  • Positively affect others’ performance so that other people tend to flourish in their presence, and
  • Exist in greater numbers at high-performing organizations than at average-performing organizations.

When the leader is a positive energizer, the organization has greater:

  • Innovation;
  • Teamwork;
  • Financial performance, including productivity and quality; and
  • Workplace cohesion.

And when the leader is a positive energizer, employees have greater:

  • Job satisfaction,
  • Well-being,
  • Engagement,
  • Performance, and
  • Relationships with family.

But there’s more to this than the need for employees to feel valued, respected and engaged. When they get recognition, support and encouragement, absenteeism is low, productivity is high, and quality and safety improve.

Additionally, positive relational energy then becomes reciprocal. An energizing approach to others acts as a continual energy-boosting mechanism, which, in turn, produces an abundance of energy in the whole network.

Energizers reproduce themselves, building networks of positive energizers around them, and that heliotropic effect expands to attract still more.