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by Dr. Karen Otazo

Published in Management Today, London, U. K.

Reason is the bound, or outward circumference of energy.”  William Blake

Working with major multinationals and companies of all sizes on three continents, I’ve found that a key factor in executive success that I call the “E” quotient, or executive energy.  Executives who use the right amount of “E” quotient are many times more effective than those who use too much or too little.  The dimensions of culture, gender, and business setting, among other things, impact your “E” quotient effectiveness.  At times, executives may need to either increase or decrease their “E” quotient.  Within these settings, executives need to learn to adapt their “E” to different situations and people they encounter to maximize their effectiveness.  

What’s Your “E” Quotient?

You have a balanced "E" Quotient if:

·         Others pay attention to what you are saying without straining.

·         People want to talk with you, even when they have ideas that are not fully formed.

·         Followers walk away from you with intent, ready to implement your strategy.

·         What others may say about you: “inspiring, encouraging, passionate about your beliefs, challenging with assignments and projects, firm but fair….”

You have too little “E” Quotient if:

·         Others interrupt and finish your sentences.

·         People don’t know where you stand on issues. 

·         When you expect a response, people are silent or move on to something else.

·         What people may say about you:  “uninspiring, too soft, unable to confront, too detailed, not “tough” enough, overly accommodating, not results driven….”

You have too much “E” Quotient if:

·         People argue with what you say when you may simply be stating a fact.

·         Words just “leap” out even when you did not mean to say them.

·         Others complain that they can’t get heard when you are in the meeting.

·         What others may say about you: “ emotional, intense, out-of-control, insensitive, aggressive, arrogant, adversarial, harshly judgmental, forceful, callous….”

How do you get to a balanced leadership “E” Quotient — simultaneously tough and caring and appropriate for the culture, country and business environment?  To shift your own “E” effectively in that direction, you need to first understand your intent and intensity.

The “E” Quotient =[Intent x intensity]  



Intent depends on the clarity of your thinking which in turn creates the resolution and will to make things happen.  What you aim to achieve — your purpose — will create focus and alignment.  Strong leaders say that clear intent enables them to deal with “antibodies,” people who want to protect the status quo. It takes stamina and “E” to outlast antibodies.

Intent shapes your total “end game”.  What specific business results do you want?   What relationships will emerge?  What are the intended consequences of your direction?  The clearer and more planned your intent is the more likely you, and others, will achieve it. 

The empathy, energy and clarity of your intent help create charismatic leadership.  The best leaders combine understanding of their employees’ needs with the energy and vision to make things happen. 


In my experience with hundreds of executives, some intensity is vital but too much is a turn off.  Your “E” Quotient Scale below shows intensity of energy on one axis and effectiveness on the other.  Your effectiveness increases with enough energy intensity and decreases with too much or too little.

Sometimes, those who have trouble being heard increase energy intensity to get airtime, consciously or unconsciously.  The increased energy intensity creates a “noise” that obscures what you are trying to say.  Consequently, the audience “hears” that intensity instead of the message. 

Depending on the country, the culture or the audience, there can be a narrow area between the dotted lines that represents the “E Comfort Zone”.  Your followers and the environment determine the comfort zone, not you. 


Your “E” Quotient: Staying in the E Comfort Zone


Executives who feel they have been short-changed in their careers may want to look at their “E” quotient.  Those who have too little tend to be ignored by superiors and staff.   Executives at the high end of the “E” scale can turn off, or “blow away,” the people they most want to engage. Mid-range “E” helps people connect with your meaning and intent, hence an “E Quotient Comfort Zone”. Effective “E” Quotient means staying in that zone.

Individuals are comfortable with varying amounts of “E”. Business and social/national environments are inherently different enough that their "E Comfort Zones" shift the dotted lines to different places on the “E” Quotient Scale. You can also use a different “E” Quotient for a group than when working one-on-one.

Comfort Zone “E” Quotient

When the new CEO walked in the room, everyone knew he was different from all their previous leaders.  His intense energy crackled as he mapped the current situation of the company and revealed his vision of the future.  His conviction in their future success, and his belief in the staff’s ability to make it happen, enthralled them.  His vision was so clear that each could imagine her or his role in it.  This leader’s energy level was contagious; the staff wanted to join him. 

This leader galvanized his staff to double their profits in a year.  He did all the right things — created quick wins, cared about staff as individuals, and reinforced his message around the world. Followers admired him.  Yet some remained wary.  In front of a group, his “E” Quotient was right on.  One-on-one, however, his intensity and quick mind could overwhelm some people. So, with coaching, he worked on toning down his “E” quotient one-on-one, when necessary.

Guidelines for Balanced “E” with Different Audiences

·         Your “E” quotient shifts with the size of your audience; larger audiences need more intensity in your “E” quotient, smaller ones need less.

·         Larger audiences expect more “E” in your gestures which should be larger and more emphatic than with small audiences.

·         A steady speaking pace with pauses at the end of phrases indicates balanced “E”.

·         In North America, audiences appreciate more hyperbole, even “evangelism”, than in Britain or most other countries.

Too little "E" Quotient

The leader saw the handwriting on the wall.  It was time to get his company’s core business into the global marketplace.  Margins were eroding and competitors were siphoning off business.  He convened his management board for a strategy meeting. 

At the meeting, the staff debated the pros and cons of the new strategic direction.  The more his board argued, the more the leader stayed silent.  His failure to take charge and direct things allowed the meeting to meander.  The resultant summary of differing opinions lacked an action plan to move his business forward.  This leader’s behavior demonstrated too little “E” for the situation.  His intent was good, but his intensity was lacking.  He needed to take control. 

Guidelines to develop more “E”


·         Connect with and listen to many people to make sure that they are hearing your message and that you are heeding their feedback.

·         Write down, and refine, your end game before running a meeting.

·         Use a series of leading questions to create enough “E” to take charge in meetings.

·         Polish and refine the messages that you want your staff, and others, to hear so that you are always prepared.

Too much "E" Quotient

The Chief Financial Officer was impatient.  When staff talked to him, he would cut them off in mid-sentence. He would yell across office hallways demanding to know why reports weren’t finished.  At presentations by staff, he would say “this better be good; your career depends on it.”  If he disagreed or disapproved, he would cross his legs and his foot would start to shake.  People who worked for him dreaded that shake and would hurry to finish when they saw it. 

Guidelines to tone down your “E”

·         Pause and count “Stop-2-3” at the ends of sentences.

·         Take time before meetings to focus your thinking so your energy doesn’t get scattered or “over-carbonated”.

·         Be aware that your pace may overwhelm others who need to think through what you are saying.

·         Have others let you know when you become “over-carbonated” on the “E” scale.

The Global Leader and the “E” Quotient

A British CEO was in New York to sell his strategic plan to the Wall Street analysts.  As he presented the company’s new direction, he was low-key and self-effacing.  Although the company had just had its best quarter in five years, what he said was that it was “holding its own.”   The analysts wondered if this past quarter was a fluke and if this CEO had “the right stuff” to move the company ahead.  He just didn’t seem enthusiastic enough.

The New York executive was in London addressing his company’s all-British executive board.  In describing their financial outlook in Asia, he stressed that he was enthusiastic about the company’s future earnings.  “Is that an — American — or British enthusiastic?” the CEO asked, adding, “please don’t get ‘too American’ on me.”

The Londoner and New Yorker simply did not have the right energy level, or “E”, for their audience.  Their respective deliveries worked in their own cultures, but required translation across the Atlantic.  Effective global leaders are constantly aware of their “E” level depending on the country/culture/audience to whom they are speaking.


To lead effectively in a global marketplace, you need to locate the “E Comfort Zone” for the situation. This is a flexible place depending on company and country cultures, type of meeting and your audience.  The key to staying there is to observe yourself and others and adjust your style and approach accordingly so you don’t have too much or too little but just the right amount.



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