Ginny Whitelaw maintains that there are four energy patterns that leaders can adopt that enable them to achieve organisational change and influence outcomes. She explains that the four patterns operate not just at a behavioural level but are reflected in thoughts, emotions, movement and the nervous system. While the patterns identified reflect the four key factors in other forms of psychometric assessment, what is different in this approach is a whole-body orientation that acknowledges the mind-body connection and moves beyond self-awareness to self-regulation. Ginny has jointly developed an instrument, the FEBI (Focus Energy Balance Indicator), which enables a leader to assess their preferred pattern of behaviour. She offers a free mini-FEBI survey on her website as well as in her book.
The four energy patterns
The four energy patterns described in her book The Zen Leader are identified as Driver, Organizer, Collaborator and Visionary. The Driver is characterised by intensity and an unerring focus on outcomes; the Organizer is contained, orderly and disciplined; the Collaborator emphasises connection, fun and free movement; and the Visionary is the big picture person who readily sees patterns and takes quantum leaps in imagination. Ginny provides a detailed explanation of each pattern in her book and gives examples of how they operate in practice for a leader.
Ginny maintains that we each have a preferred energy pattern that reflects our personality and that represents our comfort zone, an energy pattern in which we have acquired a level of unconscious competence. Therein lies the problem – much of this patterned thinking, feeling, movement and behaviour operate at a sub-conscious level. Our strengths can become our “derailers” in times of stress or new role demands. Ginny maintains that to achieve leadership effectiveness and to lead fearlessly, we need to develop agility in our capacity to choose an energy pattern that is appropriate to the situation, e.g. in a CEO role we need to be able to adopt the energy pattern of the visionary.
How to build leadership agility
Ginny argues in her book that as a leader you need to flip
“from playing to your strengths to strengthening your play”. She uses the analogy of a team to represent the
agility involved and suggests that you need to “build your bench” – have the
full range of skill sets at your disposal so that you can lead effectively in
any situation. This means progressively developing
energy patterns that are different to your preferred pattern. She provides a simple exercise to help you
identify your strengths as well as “one thing that you often wish you were
better at” – a potential starting point for building a new energy pattern
beyond your preferred mode (p.110).
In a previous post we discussed the importance of leadership agility
on one dimension, namely emotional
agility. Ginny’s whole-body approach,
reflected in the four energy patterns and measured by the FEBI instrument,
offers a multi-faceted way to develop leadership agility. In her book (pp.122-123), she offers many examples
of three key areas that can be worked on to develop any of the four energy
- Work Behaviours – recognises
that energy patterns are manifested in workplace behaviours; examples for
developing a particular energy pattern include identify top 3 priorities
(Driver); set aside time for planning (Organizer); build your network (Collaborator);
make time for reflection (Visionary).
- Physical Activities – the four
energy patterns also have physical manifestations that can be cultivated as a
way to develop patterns other than your preferred pattern, e.g. using the pushing
motion and focus of “hard and fast” bicycling (Driver); adopting the movement
of shaping and structuring through organizing a space (Organizer); using the rhythmic
movement of ballroom dancing (Collaborator); engaging the expansive movement of
Tai Chi (Visionary). Ginny contends that
different physical behaviours can lead to “different patterns of energy” and
she illustrates this in her video explanation
of the FEBI assessment.
- Sensory Support – the energy
patterns find expression in the things that we value, that create a positive feeling
in us and that build our energy; examples of ways to develop a particular pattern
using sensory support can involve office design – stark and sparse (Driver);
neat and tidy (Organizer); fun and colourful (Collaborator); harmonious with
nature (Visionary). It is relatively easy
to conceive how pictures or images could help to develop sensory support for an
energy pattern that you are attempting to develop to increase your leadership agility.
Ginny also suggests that another way to reinforce the development of a
new energy pattern is to use a symbol that could be placed on your desk. For example, she used a playdoh figure to
remind her to move beyond her preferred Driver orientation to the playful
energy of the Collaborator. Others have used
crystals, pictures, sculptures or a poem to serve as a reminder of a focus for
As we grow in mindfulness through meditation and reflection, we can
increase our self-awareness by understanding our preferred energy pattern and its
many manifestations in our daily life. We can also adopt Ginny’s suggestions re
self-regulation through the development of new energy patterns.
I completed the min-FEBI survey in her book and found that my dominant
energy pattern was “Visionary” which was supported by three less-developed (but
relatively equal) patterns of Driver, Organizer and Collaborator. This result aligned with my personal knowledge
and experience. I have frequently chosen
leadership roles requiring visionary energy over other roles. I have also been able to partially develop
the other three energy patterns through the variety of roles, physical
activities and workplace behaviours I have undertaken over the many years of my
On reflection, I realised too that I am developing my Driver energy
pattern by maintaining my focus when writing and by setting myself the task of
completing three or four blog posts per week.
However, I have come to realise that pursuing this relentlessly to a set
time deadline (a Driver pattern) has limited my time for other physical
activities that build alternative energy patterns (Tai Chi for my visionary
energy; meditation and walking for my Organizer energy). The key seems to be to find the right balance
between these energy patterns as well as to be able to use the right pattern at
the right time (or to adjust if a pattern is not working in a leadership
I have also realised that my lack of Organizer energy is reflected in my untidy and messy office. While this office “design” (many stacks of paper making it difficult to find things) manifests my Visionary energy orientation, it makes it difficult for me to function efficiently. So, this is an area that I must work on for this year (it will take that long to get organised!!). I will also need to seriously adopt the Bullet Diary Method (of course, I have the resources for this already). I can console myself that I am building towards increased Organizer energy by listening to Mozart while I write this blog (as it helps me to organise my thoughts and writing). P.S. I have not been able to readily see my reminder symbol, a symmetrical crystal, because of my messy office – there is a lesson here!
Image by mediamonk from Pixabay
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non
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