Leadership and the Myth of Balance

It is pretty hard to be a leader and live at The Intersection of Purpose and Now when you are constantly pressed for time. This nearly 7-minute Harvard Business School interview with Stewart Friedman, Professor, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School titled “Be a Better Leader, Live a Richer Life” is worth watching. His message (and ours):

Traditional thinking pits work and the rest of our lives against each other. But taking smart steps to integrate work, home, community, and self will make you a more productive leader and a more fulfilled person.

People wonder about the “leadership coaching” that is at the heart of much of our work with individuals as well as teams and organizations. They sometimes either don’t connect the struggles they face as leaders at work with the struggles they face at home, don’t accept the difficulty of self-correcting the challenges and blind spots they face, or they fail to recognize the power and efficiency of seeking outside help.

Most people want to be more effective leaders; they want more effective leadership. The best leaders recognize two things that they must do in order to be effective:

  1. tap into the leadership that exists throughout their organizations;
  2. and live a fulfilling life of their own to remain vital to their organizations.

Friedman sometimes uses a different language than I prefer, but in a significant way is saying the same thing as we do. “Balance”, though a popular term, is not necessarily what we need or even really want. Traditionally, “balance” has meant a person is making sacrifices while attempting to schedule her priorities and stick with them.

Typically, the “balanced” life is an over-saturated one pitting professional commitments against personal priorities and “playing for a tie game”, so to speak.

Life is not simply about trade-offs. Leaders must learn to seek an integrated life with focused priorities that determine how they use their time (wherever they are at the time), as opposed to a balanced life (splitting their time). Leadership growth is accentuated when the leader recognizes the pitfalls of trying to fit all of his priorities into his schedule, and begins to schedule his priorities instead.

  • Are you struggling with keeping your commitments to your work, your home, your community and your self?
  • What are your real priorities? To find out, record exactly how you use your time, in 15-minute increments, for 5 consecutive days. Don’t cheat or guess or make up how you used a block of time; if you forget to keep track just start over. Once you complete this activity, look at the percentages and you will have a rough idea of your current real priorities.
  • If you don’t like the results (those things to which you are devoting higher percentages of time are not what you want them to be), you have some work to do.
  • How might this be affecting your leadership? How do you know? (consider asking those around you: your subordinates, peers, customers, your boss or other stakeholders)

If you ever feel like you are “over-committed”, in reality you are probably under-committed to your true priorities that provide a center to your fulfillment, happiness, personal well-being, decision-making, time management and leaders.

You may need help identifying and clarifying your true priorities, as well as how you might integrate them – rather than always choosing between them. Busy, highly responsible leaders who are stretching themselves to pursue a vision may find it difficult to integrate work, home, community and self and stay healthy. If this is you, consider hiring a coach.

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About pdncoach

A Go-Giver business coach working with leaders whose success depends on the performance and productivity of others. I coach individual leaders and their teams... in small to mid-size businesses, ministries and non-profits... to accelerate their results and achieve dreams by getting past the difficult, strategic challenges of their current realities.
This entry was posted in balance, harvard business school, leadership, managing yourself, priorities, time management. Bookmark the permalink.

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