Great Leadership Requires Great Balance!

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric said There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences. I’ve always felt that way, and unfortunately, I still have the opportunity to address that concept on a regular basis, especially with clients in environments, where the term work-life balance is thrown around indiscriminately in two ways: By short-sighted, die-hard executives at the top, who constantly tell subordinates Don’t expect any if you expect to get to the top. By HR practitioners, who toss the term around in their development workshops and seminars as a wonderful leadership objective, while offering no realistic solutions for achieving such a state. There are times, believe me, when I get really upset knowing these environments really haven’t changed that much. I’m asked often what I think is the most important objective with Leadership and I consistently respond with balance. Why? Because balanced leadership requires continuous, situational adjustments to maintain a balanced, healthy organization, not only professionally but personally. I use the term life balance often because we know that our work life does bleed over into our personal life and vice versa, with the latter being the case more often than not. Balance is stressed in every aspect of our lives, from learning to ride a bike to eating a balanced diet. I’ve personally realized this in my own life, as I’m more diligent now than I ever thought I would be about getting enough exercise (it happens to be biking on a regular basis) and not only what I eat, but how. It should be no different in leading an organization. This realization is why I’m so focused on measuring Leadership over 10 Core Character Competencies, with one of those being to Zero in on caring for people. We’ve all worked for or with someone, who had no life outside of their work. At the office by 6 am, never home before 6 pm, and along with making a choice to work those kinds of hours, not cognizant of the affect or influence that was having on everyone in the workplace environment and at home. I’ve been there, believe me, and I know whereof I speak. Balance is critical to good leadership and not only to have a healthy organization, but to have a sustainable and profitable one. With no push to get the job done, the organization fails. At the same time, if the culture is such that everything outside of work is sacrificed, the people will fail just as quickly. The short-term gains will eventually lead to failure and demise. The best leaders constantly strive for balance in everything and they understand the value of being rigidly flexible. The poorer leaders work just for the sake of work, regardless of the circumstances or the diversity of the challenge. The best leaders preach people first, mission always. The poorer leaders preach process and outcomes always, never understanding that people don’t sacrifice for process or outcomes; they sacrifice for mission! Those of you working in a more results-focused environment are probably under a leadership culture that is more autocratic or transactional (this for that) in nature. An inevitable outcome is that the balance you require personally will not be relinquished professionally. Truth Be Told, balance is the objective in all things. Leadership is no exception.

Published by The Leadership Consortium

Maxie Carpenter was formerly Vice President of HR & Talent Development for Wal-Mart Stores. After a 27-year career, he began to pursue a number of other interests, which included alternative education, nonprofits, consulting, writing and public speaking.

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