Light v. Heat

Many brilliant scientists of the 19th century worked on the challenge of trying to create a light bulb, an invention that unquestionably changed the world. Thomas Edison finally patented the first commercially viable version in 1879.  

A lot of good things have happened to light bulbs since then. Even the early versions were effective at providing light, but unfortunately also gave off a lot of wasted, and sometimes dangerous, heat. A typical incandescent light bulb from only a few years ago wasted 90% of its energy in heat.  A modern powerful LED bulb gives off a strong light, using up to 85% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb, and generates very little heat at all.

When thinking about leadership, dealing with people or effectively managing teams we should be aiming to be like that modern lightbulb - provide plenty of light without generating unnecessary, useless heat. Just as scientists have worked on optimizing the light bulb much work has been done over the years to help us be better leaders and managers.

We can benefit from all the experience, mistakes and successes of those that have gone before us.

Despite all that knowledge and best-practice, when things get complicated and challenging do we, our teams, or even whole organizations, start to generate unnecessary heat that reduces effectiveness? And even worse, can that heat lead to a danger of burn-out and permanent damage?

As leaders we must try to be aware of when our light/heat ratio starts to tip from providing useful illumination, to generating unhelpful and uncomfortable heat. Nowadays, with so much knowledge and experience to learn from, there is really no excuse for being a scalding incandescent, when you can be a cool, calm but still brilliant LED.