7 Levels of Leadership – Big Problem or Huge Opportunity?

A drilling supply company once sent two salespeople to an area in Africa where they had never had any oil field sales in their region.  The first was one of their senior, most experienced salesmen, Ben, and they expected big things of him. The other was an optimistic rookie named Cynthia. She didn’t have much experience, but she had a lot of enthusiasm.  They figured at the very least, she might be able to establish some contacts and sell some supplemental services.

Shortly after their arrival, Ben, the experienced salesperson wired the home office saying, “You might as well bring me back. Nobody here has any rigs.”

The rookie, Cynthia, wired the home office with an urgent message: “Send me the best fleet of truck-mounted and track-mounted drilling rigs you got.  Nobody here has a supplier!”

You may have heard this “joke” before – but it illustrates a key difference between anabolic and catabolic leaders. Two people, faced with the same situation, yet having totally different reactions. What’s the difference between them? In a word, energy – Ben is catabolic and Cynthia is anabolic. Catabolic people see problems and challenges everywhere, and in everything. Anabolic people see opportunity and possibility. And not only do they see opportunity, but they take action to capitalize on it. 

Most of the time, people’s default response is to focus on what’s wrong – in their lives, their businesses, the world. They complain, criticize, and don’t take a lot of action – and why would they? They are just certain there are only more problems and challenges ahead. Or, they enjoy the attention it brings them, even if it’s only temporary while exhausting to everyone else. This is catabolic, destructive energy – and it surrounds us every day.

People with anabolic energy find opportunity in everything. They don’t see the bad and make it a good; they truly see opportunity in all that happens. They look at a situation and ask, “What’s working here?” “What’s right?” and “What’s next?” They don’t see problems or challenges, just exciting adventures and chances to make things work better.

So while a catabolic person might be fearful or get upset if one of his customers took his business to a competitor, an anabolic person would look at that situation as a chance not only to get the customer back, but to also change and improve the circumstances that led to the customer leaving in the first place.

As you go through your day, look at your responses to what’s happening around you. Remember that your level of awareness creates your perceptions, and that creates your reality – the world you know. And most importantly, remember that you can learn to choose your response and begin to shift from catabolic to anabolic engaged energy, if you’re not already there!

Begin today by asking those all-important solution-focused questions - “What’s working here?” “What’s right?” and “What’s next?” After all, it’s your world, and you can create it as you wish.


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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