The best leaders are often known to have buoyant energy levels that make them excellent speakers. Here's how to follow in their footsteps
The leaders featured in this weekly column are typically those who have the ability to energize their employees, customers, and colleagues by the way they communicate. But in addition to the specific language they use, the most inspiring leaders have an unusually high level of energy. Where do they find the energy to work 12 hours a day, travel around the globe, and still knock a one-hour presentation out of the park? Here are the three common factors that they share.
Energized leaders get sleep. On the eve of his Presidential inauguration, Ronald Reagan gave explicit instructions to his staff that he not be awakened before a certain time. President Jimmy Carter called at 7 a.m. to discuss some issues prior to handing over power and was told Reagan was sleeping and could not be disturbed. Carter was incredulous, but Reagan had a point. He wanted to be fully rested for the most important speech—or presentation—of his life.
The right amount of sleep for your body (whether it's four hours or eight hours; not everyone's the same) can make the difference in how you come across. Be honest with yourself, find out how many hours are ideal for you and guard that time as best you can. Don't compare yourself to others. If you hear that Oprah only needs four hours of sleep, don't think you'll be successful by getting by on less just like her. You'll probably get the opposite result.
It's critical in a presentation to exceed the audience's energy level slightly. It might be fine for the guy across the conference table to be dragging a bit because he stayed up later than usual, but it's not fine for the presenter. You owe it yourself to avoid sleep deprivation. According to brain research scientist, John Medina: "Loss of sleep hurts attention, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity." In his book Brain Rules, Medina highlighted a NASA study that showed a 26-minute nap improved a pilot's performance by 34%. Sleep on it.
Energized leaders get off their behinds. In 2003, CBS hired me to cover the first one hundred days of the Schwarzenegger administration in California. I had a front row seat to many of the Governor's speeches and presentations. Schwarzenegger had more energy than many on his staff half his age. I learned that, despite putting his bodybuilding days long behind him, Schwarzenegger still worked out 90 minutes a day, six days a week, combining aerobic activity and strength training. It was a turning point for me. Although I have always been committed to physical fitness, I found excuses for skipping a jog or workout—like many people. The observation forced me to ask myself, if Schwarzenegger could work out for 90 minutes a day and still find time to run the world's fifth largest economy, what excuse do I have?
I soon found that most of the successful leaders I interviewed were fanatical about exercise. When I spoke to Google (GOOG) Vice-President Marissa Mayer, I learned that she hits the Google gym after a very long day, usually after 8 p.m. Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz takes a bike ride before getting into the office at 6 a.m., and Cisco CEO John Chambers is an avid jogger, usually getting in a long run while rehearsing a presentation in his mind. Exercise sends oxygen rich blood to the brain, promoting clarity and energy. Inspiring leaders cannot afford not to work out.
Energized leaders have a relentlessly positive outlook. When Norman Vincent Peal wrote The Power of Positive Thinking, he couldn't have known that a sports marvel by the name of Tiger Woods would take a positive mental attitude to the nth degree. "The road to failure is paved with negativity," Woods wrote in How I Play Golf. "If you think you can't do something, chances are you won't be able to. Conversely, the power of positive thinking can turn an adverse situation into a prime opportunity for heroism."
Find me a successful and energetic leader in any field and I'll show you a person who is relentlessly positive. Emotional stress—which is often self-imposed—takes a toll on your energy, filling your mind with clutter that interferes with your pitch or presentation.
The positive psychology movement has taught us that thinking optimistically has a dramatic effect on our moods. A positive mood will raise your energy, give power to your words, and boost your professional presence. Using positive language when talking to yourself releases powerful endorphins, or feel-good chemicals, in your brain. These are same type of chemicals released during exercise. Do you see the connection? By getting more sleep, more exercise, and thinking more uplifting thoughts, your energy will soar. Your colleagues and customers will notice.