7 Levels of Leadership - Seeing the Big Picture

This week we continue our examination of the 7 Levels of Leadership through the differences between anabolic and catabolic leaders by exploring a very interesting distinction between the two– the way each type of leader thinks. This is perhaps one of the most complicated, but essential, aspects of understanding the differences between these leader types.

Catabolic leaders use left-brain analysis almost exclusively. This type of thinking is direct and realistic. It’s the logical approach, and considers only facts and actual observations yet having no depth or scope. Anabolic leaders use whole brain thinking, which encompasses emotions, resilience, decisiveness, self-control and intuition, as well as logic. This type of thinking is called holographic thinking, because like multi-dimensional holograms, holographic thinking involves being able to see many perspectives at once.

By using their emotional and intuitive minds in addition to left brain logical analysis, anabolic leaders are able to view a situation as a whole and thus get a complete picture of what is really going on. The ability to see this “meta-view” is key to ensuring the greatest chances for success by guiding anabolic leaders in making the very best decisions they can, both personally and professionally, on a daily and a long-term basis.

Effective leadership is about how you process your thoughts, not what you think about.

Engagement from a mental perspective involves focusing your brainpower, or brain capacity, to complete a specific activity at hand. It is built on your ability to be present in the moment – to be alert, focused, and clear – in order to harness your mental faculties for decision-making, idea generation, and the like. This can be quickly assessed by your alertness and presence at any given moment. Consider:

  • How distracted are you?
  • How present are you in a conversation? In a task?
  • How clear are you on what you are trying to accomplish at that moment?
  • How effectively are you processing all available information in order to make decisions?

When the mind is stressed, concentration, clarity, focus, access to intuition, and decision-making suffer.

So how would this actually play out “in real life”? Say a vice president was faced with a decision about whether or not to pull the plug on an international expansion project, launched several months before, which was not bringing in the revenue it was expected to. The catabolic executive would look only at the facts and figures, and, most likely, would decide to discontinue the project because the income wasn’t coming in.

On the other hand, anabolic leaders would take much more into account in making a decision. Not only would financials and logistics be examined, but they would also look at their intuitive response (what flashes of insight they had) and consider their emotional response, as well as the emotional responses of others. The conclusion they come to might be the same – to pull the plug, or, based on ‘seeing the big picture’; they might decide to keep the project going.  

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the leading researchers and experts in the field of Positive Psychology and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, describes fully engaged mental energy as the state of flow - a state of concentration or complete absorption within the activity or situation at hand.

Here’s a list of several mental aspects that can enhance one’s energy and engagement:

  • Having clear action plans
  • Concentrate (focus) on the task at hand
  • Minimize distractions
  • Balancing challenge with current skills capacity (stretching, but not over-reaching)

By using a holographic approach, anabolic leaders are able to access brainpower and energy needed to address opportunities—and challenges—from many perspectives at once with clarity and alertness. To practice thinking three-dimensionally or holographically, consider your potential action in light of what makes sense, what your emotional response to it is, and what your intuitive senses tell you. This may not be natural at first, but eventually, it will become second nature and increase your leadership effectiveness immensely.


Debrah Mathis, ELI-MP, managing principal of E2S Solutions Professional Coaching LLC provides leaders and organizations transformational solutions using Energy Leadership™, an exclusive coaching approach that is cutting-edge, and perhaps one of the most significant developments in transformational leadership potential, energy performance, and self-management skills available where people deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life with sustainable results. Visit www.EngagetoSuccess.com to view case studies and learn more why your E-Factor matters.

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