The Impact of Leaky Energy

I’ve been talking with leaders lately about the challenges they face and the things that get in the way of their effectiveness and productivity. In one particular conversation, ‘leaky energy’ emerged as the main culprit. For this leader, this idea really resonated as he had been through a significant period of burnout recently and he recognised that ‘leaky energy’ had contributed to his challenge. So, realising this may be a common issue facing leaders, I’m prompted to go deeper on the topic and share some wisdom for others who might be struggling with this issue.

“I work with leaders on the pain points that result from ‘leaky energy.’ They need to look behind the curtain at the messy bits of how they interact with others, and develop their EQ and PQ skills in order to deal effectively in times of challenge and conflict.”

So, what is “leaky energy?”

I define it as a person’s natural energy being used unconsciously on negative thought patterns or experiences, causing stress, anxiety, lower productivity or ineffectiveness. More simply said, it is what occurs when we spend our time in ways that drain us of energy (as opposed to enliven us).

5 Common Sources of Leaky Energy

1. Unproductive Thought Habits. Can you think of something that is currently bothering you, such as worrying over a concern about your teenager or a problem with a work colleague? Do you lie awake at night, noodling on a problem that interrupts your sleep? Perhaps you’re facing an issue that’s difficult to communicate, so you spend time thinking it through, with no clear way to address it. Persistent or common bouts of worry and rumination both lead to ‘leaky energy.’ They are cyclical patterns of ‘thinking about’ which provide little or no value. They don’t often lead to creative action, but rather produce negative emotions. Anything you are not taking practical action to deal with or resolve is likely depleting you. 

2. Procrastination or Letting Things Slide. Maybe there’s a task you’ve been attempting to handle or get to (taxes used to be mine!). You need to do it, but setting the time aside eludes you. It’s on a perpetual ‘to do” list, but you are no closer to producing an outcome. You spend much more time thinking about NOT doing it than actually doing it, which can lead to disappointment or feelings of self criticism –- yet another form of ‘leaky energy.’ 

3. Need for Control or Overachieving. Are you plagued with a number of issues in life that you have little control over but feel you should, and you spend time and effort strategising how to gain more control?  Or perhaps you double down on efforts to achieve something in a way that is counterproductive or over-uses your energy? Having expectations beyond what is in your actual control or going unnecessarily above and beyond in ways that deplete you can be draining. 

4. Conflict with Self. Being conflicted with yourself, in other words doing things that do not align with your commitments or purpose, can have a subtle, draining effect. When you do things that go against your values, or something you believe in, it takes its toll. A simple example might be if you are irritated by social media but still spend time perusing it, which leads to conversations or complaints which you don’t really want to be having. This can fill you with unnecessary negative energy. 

5. Unresolved Conflict with Others. One of the most insidious forms of ‘leaky energy’ is conflict with others. Because many people find conflict scary, and it can be difficult to communicate what’s going on when you anticipate conflict, issues are often ignored or avoided. While we know theoretically that sweeping things under the carpet doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean we don’t do it. Lingering, unresolved issues with people in your life, either personal or professional, can have multiple impacts – diminished affinity, resentment, and blame. More to the point here, even if you’re not actively dealing with a problem you have with another, allowing irritation or disagreement to persist, it remains in your headspace, and this will result in an undercurrent of psychic drain as well, another form of ‘leaky energy.’

Why Address Leaky Energy?

If you are honest with yourself and take stock of ways your energy is being depleted or causing negativity, labelling it can help you begin to turn the tide. This reckoning opens a door and lets in fresh air, allowing you to interrupt unworkable patterns and better manage your energy flow. With agency comes choice, and the ability to dramatically shift the quality of your life. (Need some motivation? Imagine the positive energy that comes with shifting a negative conversation to a positive one, or the joy that comes with resolving something important to you!)

Leaky Energy Chart


How Severe is your Leaky Energy?

The total amount of ‘negativity’ – negative emotions, ruminating on unresolved issues or needless worry, ineffective relating  – roughly translates into the ‘leaky energy’ that is limiting your ‘flow’ and effectiveness and impacting your life (as demonstrated in the bar chart above). That time or energy represents the opportunity zone for becoming more productive or effective, increasing your vitality, ultimately producing more happiness, well-being and success. 

If the red areas are minimal, then this might not be an issue for you.  However, if more than 15-25% of your time is plagued by reactions and negativity or issues are weighing on you, you might want to consider taking stock with an Energy Inventory.

How to Complete an Energy Inventory

Examine how much ‘leaky energy’ affects your daily life by taking stock with an Energy Inventory.You can do this by reflecting on how you spend your time and the experience you have in each area, and whether those are energising or draining.

  1. Name 6 or 8 areas of life or ways you occupy your waking time
  2. Identify specific ways in which your experience in that area is either positive or negative. Look at situations, activities, or interactions, your habits or behavioural patterns.
  3. Roughly calculate (this is not scientific!) what portion of time in that area is energising versus depleting (characterised by negative thinking, difficult emotions, worry, or challenges).
  4. Think of ways to impact this area. What action could you take to make a change in this area?

“Leaders know they need emotional intelligence (EQ) to perform well, but how does that translate into day-to-day interactions? One way is to develop their self-awareness and recognise how they play a part in the challenging situations they face, and apply tools. Strengthening their mental muscles through PQ is one very potent way to impact their performance.”

PQ: A Tool for Combatting Leaky Energy

The Positive Intelligence (PQ) framework, which is based on breakthrough research in neuroscience and cognitive behavioural psychology, is a great tool for identifying and mitigating ‘leaky energy’, for anyone, not just leaders.

Through the Saboteur Assessment you discover your saboteur profile, the many ways your mind is constantly reacting to people and situations, with sabotaging thoughts and emotions. Saboteurs, like the Judge, the Hyper Vigilant, the Controller, the Victim are full character profiles with unique traits and patterns that were developed from early age programming and a collection of life experiences in each of us. When ‘hijacked’ by the associated automatic reactions (predictable ways of thinking and acting that cause negative thoughts and emotions) this in turn impacts our effectiveness and productivity, causing stress and anxiety, and derailing our peace of mind and success. Consider that you can either be in a state that’s positive or negative, but you can’t do both at the same time!  

What happens as a result of all that hijacking of our minds? You guessed it – ‘leaky energy’! To redeploy that energy, we must intercept our Saboteurs when they are causing mischief in the driver’s seat of our lives, and access our Sage, our inner genius. Activating the Sage Perspective and other Sage Powers, brings creativity, intuition and clear, laser-focused action to deal with any situation, a part of developing our Mental Fitness.  

Mental Fitness is the capacity to respond to life’s challenges with greater ease and a positive mindset.

You can dramatically decrease your ‘leaky energy’ and impact your productivity, relationships and happiness through the Positive Intelligence (PQ) Mental Fitness Program as you learn powerful techniques for intercepting your saboteurs, deploying your self command muscle and redirecting your mind to the powers of the Sage. As people go through this 6-week journey, they learn a powerful framework to understand how they are ‘hijacked,’ gain distance from these reactions, which allows for a dramatic decrease of negativity. The end result is more agency and positivity in day-to-day interactions and situations, thereby mitigating ‘leaky energy.’  

In Summary

‘Leaky energy’ is a pervasive part of daily life for most people. It shows up in many forms and causes unnecessary stress and anxiety, getting in the way of people’s productivity, well-being and happiness. Assessing your unnecessary energy drain is the first step in regaining energy and momentum.

Because it is a human phenomenon, no one is immune from ‘leaky energy.’ and certainly not leaders, who face high demands on their attention and potential burnout.  When they effectively manage their energy, it can have a positive ripple effect on the people and workplaces around them. The good news is that mitigating ‘leaky energy’ can be easily addressed with an increase in self-awareness and by developing ways to close the leaks. It does take discipline, practice and action, but when consciously applied to everyday living, it is well worth the benefits!