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Leadership requires energy.

It doesn't necessarily call for the kind of energy needed to run a marathon or take care of ten 2-year-olds for an hour. But for me, and perhaps for you, leading requires a great deal of mental and emotional vigor.

Think about it. If you're a leader, you have to initiate, which means you often have to be the first one to rise and say, "Let's go." You frequently have to say, "Let's go," to people who don't want to go, which means you have to persuade them that they need to follow you.

You have to make tough calls that directly affect the lives of other people. You have to solve complex problems. You have to serve as a mediator, negotiator, counselor, encourager, and teacher to the people on your team. And so on.

The work of leading is intellectually stimulating and personally fulfilling—if it wasn't, who would want to do it? But it can also be incredibly draining, which is why we all need regular refueling.

Leaders re-energize in various ways. Some read. Some cook. Some fish. Some play tennis—or racquetball, or basketball or golf. Those activities all have their place. But in my life, I also get a great deal of energy from certain personal relationships.

Not all relationships fall into this category, mind you. Some people can literally suck the life right out of you if you're not careful. Sometimes you can avoid such relationships, but many times you can't. That makes energizing relationships even more critical.

Do you have people in your life who energize you when the work of leading has sapped your strength and zapped your spirit? If you've never thought of your relationships in that way, perhaps you should start. To help you begin the process, here are eight types of relationships that energize me.
  1. My family.
    Now, I realize that maintaining healthy connections with close relatives also requires a great deal of energy. You cannot expect to be a good spouse or parent if you're not willing to devote a significant amount of time and effort to the relationship. But a strong relationship with a spouse, for example, can also be a tremendous source of energy for a leader.

    My wife, Margaret, gives me so much in this regard. I can get compliments from a dozen people after a speaking engagement, but if she says, "Great job," it's worth more than all the other comments combined.

  2. Creative people.
    I love being around creative people because it stimulates my thinking and recharges my own creative batteries. I also just enjoy observing how their minds work.

  3. Successful people.
    When I meet such individuals, I often ask them to tell me how they made it to the top. Not surprisingly, their stories are usually punctuated by examples of hardship and adversity. I'm inspired when I hear how people overcome opposition, persevere through challenges and maneuver around obstacles to accomplish their goals.

  4. My team.
    My favorite day of the month is what we call "Presidents' Day." On this day, I sit down with the people who run my three companies and we review what's happening in our organization. I'm always invigorated when I leave these meetings because my team members—those men and women who are really out there doing the job—are making me so much better than I could ever hope to be on my own.

  5. Good thinkers.
    By this, I don't necessarily mean smart people. I'm not incredibly smart, but I love to think. And I love to spend time with people who enjoy the intellectual give and take of a good conversation. Thinking people don't talk about other people. They talk about principles, concepts, and ideas. That energizes me.

  6. Interesting people.
    Let's face it. Some people are interesting, and others are not. A person doesn't have to be rich or powerful to be interesting. A keen mind, an interest in others, and a love of learning all determine whether a person is interesting or not far more than his title or the size of her investment portfolio.

  7. Encouragers.
    When you see these people coming, you automatically know they're going to lift you up. They just can't help it; it's part of their genetic code. Every leader needs a relationship with someone like this.

  8. "Fun" people.
    These folks love life, and their enthusiasm is contagious.
I used to do a considerable amount of counseling, and if there's one thing I learned from those interactions, it's that our relationships very often define who we are and what we can become.

So, if you want to become a more effective leader, foster relationships with people who stimulate your thinking, make you laugh, encourage you, and inspire you. Your energy level depends upon it.

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's
free monthly e-newsletter: Leadership Wired
available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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