How many tons of coal does an organisation need to succeed?

"I am somewhat exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?"
Arthur Conan Doyle , The Adventure of the Dying Detective

The Energy Hypothesis 

There is so much debate these days on energy, the environment, climate change and the emotions and politics that surround these issues.

It's time to jump in the helicopter and consider a big picture hypothesis.

For both humans and their organisations.

This post posits that fossil fuels form the energy that has driven the success of homo sapiens;  and that leadership energy is the fuel that drives organisations.


"The success or failure of a mammalian specie is a direct function of its ability to generate and consume energy.

Success of a mammalian specie is measured by its ability to procreate and sustain growth over time."


For several thousand years the human population was relatively static, probably in the millions.

By 1822 the global population has been estimated at approximately one billion.  (And over the previous one thousand years it grew slowly from 250 million to one billion.)

And then we entered the age of the great burning of fossil fuels.  Almost overnight we entered this orgy of energy generation and consumption.

From a base of almost no energy consumption per capita in 1822 we galloped and gulped our way over two centuries to approximately one ton of coal consumption for every living person per annum in 2022.  (Or fossil fuel equivalent - you get the picture.  In the affluent countries this can be as high or higher than ten tons of coal per person per annum.)

It took nature 50 to 100 million years to generate all the earth's fossil fuels. If we continue consuming them at the current or accelerated rate, there will be nothing left in another two hundred years.  


During this remarkable 200 year stretch of exponential fossil energy generation the population ballooned from one billion to eight billion.  (It is still growing at a net sixty thousand bipeds per day.  Optimists suggest it will level off at around ten billion during this century.)

Herein lies the energy hypothesis.  Population growth is a direct product of energy generation.  It is a straight case of cause and effect.  (Direct and indirect. Energy generates technology.  Technology generates education, wealth, health care, innovation, financial systems etc.)

We now need one ton of coal per annum to support one human.  (Along with the energy for each person to share with one eighth of a cow, one eighth of a sheep and four chickens.)

The key question:  How much coal does an organisation need to be successful?


The energy hypothesis for organisations is identical to that of mammals.  For the simple reason that the laws of physics remain unchanged.

"The success or failure of any organisation is a direct function of its ability to generate potential human energy and convert it into kinetic action.

The source of all organisational energy is leadership energy, the fossil fuel equivalent on the organisational landscape."

Defining leadership and organisational energy 

Human energy is biological.  This means its primary potential is also sourced from fossil fuels and needs to be topped up with a ton of coal each year.

This energy is then converted into thinking and action.   Every leader develops a unique energy potential.  Higher leadership energy leads to higher organisational energy and subsequent performance.

This leadership energy - the fuel needed to do work - can be measured and generated.  This is how we measure it.

We have based our globally unique method of assessing leadership energy on Jean Paul Sartre's three levels of consciousness.

  1. How I see myself
  2. How I see the world
  3. How the world sees me

Below you will see a live example of a manager's three energy assessments.

We use the powerful GCIndex for measuring potential energy of the individual - how I see myself.  It is the only instrument that provides both an important profile and a relative energy level that drives individual impact potential.  

Note.  Other popular self tests such as the Myers-Briggs profiles tell you about 'shape', but nothing about potential energy.  For example you could have two leaders with identical profiles - such as ENTJ - which tell you absolutely nothing about the individual's energy level, the real predictor of performance.

Given the choice of a traditional personality type profile or a measure of potential energy - take the latter every time. 

We use our own customised assessment tool to measure Organisation Energy - how I see the world around me at work.  It is crucial to know this.  It provides the context within which a person works every day.

Based on decades of using the instrument we are able to predict with a high degree of accuracy the nature of the organisational culture and DNA attached to each level of organisational energy.

We also use a customised 360 - how the world sees me - to provide the individual with initial feedback on their kinetic energy at work.

We believe our customised 3D assessment solution to be a world first as it creates a logical link that flows through and integrates the three assessments.


The mining and consumption of fossil fuels is the foundation for the remarkable and successful evolution of homo sapiens over the past two centuries.

Our continued success will be largely dependent on finding clean alternatives in time.  If not the hypothesis predicts the decline in population numbers, commensurate with the decline in energy availability.

The same principle applies to organisations, and leadership energy - the source of 'fossil fuel' that drives all organisational performance.  Higher energy drives growth, and lower energy drives decline.

Leading is Acting. Is "Leadership" an Unrelated L...
The Three Core Skills of High Energy Leadership


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Wednesday, 10 August 2022
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360 Degree Assessment Instructions
360 Degree Assessment Instructions
360 Degree Assessment Instructions