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Leaders Should Stop Trying To Defy The Laws Of Physics

Written by: Camilla Calberg, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


For executives, just like everyone else, each action brings an equal and opposite reaction. Picture a CEO’s desk and you might imagine, nestling alongside their computer and their phone, the classic executive toy known as a Newton’s Cradle, its polished chrome marble clacking back and forth as they transfer energy and momentum from one to the other and back again.

Corporate businessman and Newton's cradle

A Newton’s Cradle isn’t just a toy, though. It’s also a reminder of the power of Newton’s laws of motion, which famously state that every reaction is met with an equal and opposite reaction. That’s something all executives would do well to remember — because in leadership, as in everything else, what you project out into the world swiftly rebounds back on you.

A recipe for burnout

I thought of Newton’s Cradle recently while counselling a senior pharma executive — let’s call her Sheila — who was struggling with potentially career-ending burnout. It began when Sheila was given a big, important project to manage. Desperate to succeed, Sheila took it upon herself to supervise everything her team did: every decision that was made, every document that was produced, and every email her team sent out. At first, Sheila’s hands-on approach seemed to be working. She was smart and determined, and her team strove to live up to her high standards. But Sheila’s micromanagement and refusal to tolerate even the smallest misstep quickly began to catch up with her. She began driving her team harder and harder, and snapping at them when she felt they were falling short — and the more she yelled, the less motivated and engaged they grew. Sheila drove herself harder and harder, too. First her beloved gym visits fell by the wayside. Then she stopped cooking dinner, or even leaving her desk for meals. Her family life suffered, and she wasn’t sleeping well, either. The more responsibility Sheila personally shouldered, in fact, the less effectively she could cope with the burden. By the time she came to me, Sheila was badly burned out, her team was traumatised, and the project was in trouble.

The physics of leadership

What did Sheila’s burnout have to do with Isaac Newton? It’s simple: Sheila brought the wrong energy to her team, then got blown off course when that energy inevitably rebounded back on her.

It’s something I see time and again when advising executives. A boss who brings anger to their work breeds anger, fear, and resentment in their team. A leader who doesn’t trust their team struggles to generate loyalty and engagement. And one who lacks clarity and conviction often finds that their team loses direction, or panics in the face of change.

This tendency is especially dangerous, of course, for leaders who try to micromanage things, because every action brings a reaction. Even if they start out projecting positivity and confidence, a leader who tries to do everything themselves will soon be overwhelmed by the reactions to all the actions they’re taking.

In such circumstances, even the best bosses eventually slip into negativity or anger. That’s the start of a dangerous spiral, because the reactions to their actions immediately become toxic, too — and at that point, burnout and bad results are almost inevitable.

Give power to get power

So what’s the solution? The good news is that while you can’t defy the laws of physics, you

can turn them to your advantage.

The best leaders understand that their actions reverberate through the entire organisation — and back at them! — so they treat those around them with clarity, conviction, and compassion.

Crucially, they also have the strength to share authority — to let others take action. That way, the force of the reactions — both positive and negative — ripple through the entire organisation, rather than converging back on a single leader.

Leaders who take this approach free themselves to operate strategically and thoughtfully, instead of obsessing over the minutiae of execution and operationalization. And their teams get better results, too, with the leader becoming a source of direction and strength rather than a single potential point of failure.

Fortunately, I was able to remind Sheila that good leadership isn’t about flying solo. She stepped away and took some time for herself — disconnecting, hitting the reset button, and recharging — then came back newly determined to trust her team, and to offer guidance and direction without breathing down people’s necks.

That worked for Sheila — and it can work for you, too. So if you’re feeling burned out or stressed about your team’s performance, remember: you can’t fight the laws of physics. Instead, harness them — by thinking carefully about what you’re projecting out into the world, and finding ways to bring a new and more fruitful kind of energy to your leadership.

Follow me on LinkedIn, and visit my website, for more info!


Camilla Calberg, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Camilla Calberg is a thought leader in leadership, elevated mindset and divine living. A toxic love relationship and an international career left her with learning challenges, Camilla created strategies to dramatically transform how life can become a better experience. Camilla has since dedicated her life to assisting others to create a life filled with happiness, love and freedom. She is the Founder and CEO of Calberg Coaching, the academy where business professionals learn how to become Tomorrow's Leaders today. Her mission: revolutionise leadership education.



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