Under-functioning for Fun and Profit!

A Steve Geske Memorial Post:

“By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.”

– Robert Frost

Does your idea of leadership involve working harder than everyone else? Does it mean being the one who cares the most about the success of your organization? Do you find yourself constantly doing more and those around you doing less? Do you find yourself disappointed by the performance of others and frustrated at their lack of concern? If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you may be guilty of “Leadership OFS,” (over-functioning syndrome).

The Energy Management Model introduces the concept of emotional triangles. One of the rules of emotional triangles is that relationships are “buckets” of anxiety. A third person or entity is always brought in to a relationship to manage the anxiety between the original two. Anxiety, like a hot potato is tossed to the third person and the original relationship is stabilized. As long as the third person will hold it, the other two are happy. Tossing the hot potato to one of the original two will destabilize the original relationship and they will attempt to toss it back.

Anxiety is one of the main motivators in life. Most of us will not watch what we eat until we become anxious about the health consequences of our poor choices. We need a certain anxiety to get things done. What happens when the leader of a family, company or an organization comes in and takes the hot potato of systemic anxiety and holds on to it? You guessed it, this leaves others without the very thing they need for their own motivation. Taking the hot potato of anxiety can take many forms in a leader. It can manifest as overworking and taking on more and more responsibility. It can show up as being overly anxious about the success of team goals or an individual’s performance. Whatever the form, the leader begins to over-function.

What do you suppose happens to the motivation and behaviors of those around leaders when they begin to over-function? You guessed it; they lose their motivation and begin to do less. This often causes the leader to get more anxious and begin to over-function all the more. A vicious cycle ensues that results in exhausted leaders and lukewarm members with atrophied talents and skills.

When leaders work on their own emotional maturity, self-define and watch those triangles!, they functioning better…even successfully.


Steve Geske


Leave a Reply