Leadership

Those who are balanced in their lives make better leaders

Despite training and education, many leaders' results are a product of their own belief systems. John McKee says this can be a career killer and explains how to correct limiting beliefs.

In our firm's regular surveying, we ask people to tell us how they'd rate themselves on the three key life elements, by which we mean:

1. Career/professional life -- what we do each day to earn a living

2. Personal/family life -- that part of us that's most focused on replenishment

3. Financial life -- what we do with our paychecks and other money issues

Consistently, most respondents say that they feel they're doing pretty well on one of the life elements. A lesser number feel they're doing OK in two of them. But only a small percentage feels they're doing well in all three (16%, in our last round of questions).

Do those numbers surprise you?

[To see how the readers of this blog compare with others, we've used the weekly poll to get a (very rough) survey at the bottom of this piece.]

I am convinced that the way leaders view the world can have a significant impact on their organizations. And leaders who are more "balanced" in their lives ( e.g., they have time for a personal life as well as doing well in their career life) often behave in their leadership roles differently than those who have a lack of balance.

  • The balanced leader is more likely to see her/his role encompassing developmental issues, and they seem to be focused, more closely, on things affecting their people and other arms of the organization.
  • Leaders who are more one dimensional seem more likely to spend time on the immediate needs or crises. They are less likely to be concerned with issues outside of their purview. Developmental issues (for both themselves and their subordinates) are rarely given priority.

One of my clients has difficulty communicating her messages clearly. Her style is more "masculine" in that she thinks through issues before having a conversation or attending a meeting. She comes in ready to state her position.

But a key problem with coming in to a meeting with one's mind made up is that you may miss the benefit of new information or insight that might change your opinion.

And that's what was happening to her:

  • She often found herself trying to defend her position. She's built a reputation as being defensive, closed-minded, guarded, and too hard core. Those aren't the kind of attributes that are going to help her career path, and, as importantly, it's not the kind of boss anyone would choose. Good people flee as soon as they can.
  • Her results are slumping. While some of that can be chalked up to the economy, she's starting to realize that her lack of balance is a big factor. She "sees" things in a fairly one-dimensional way.

On the other side:

  • Leaders who have more "balance" usually have a broader perspective as well -- this helps them work through issues with greater insight and openness.
  • People want to work for and with them also. And being surrounded with better talent improves results even more (a circle of success).

Summing this up

Although individuals who are entirely focused on their career may enjoy earlier success than others, that usually catches up with them. Ultimately it can result in failure in the only one of the three key life elements they'd focused on. At that point, if they crash, they have little support and few ideas about what to do next. They achieve greater success over the long haul.

Having a satisfying life with balance in two or three of the elements can provide greater satisfaction over the long haul, but it may not feel like it for a while.

Here's to your future.

John

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

11 comments
dbobke
dbobke

Your direct reports also have lives outside of work and the lack of balance in their lives will have a detrimental effect in your area or department. It is important to understand your employees' issues as well - and that only comes through building a relationship!

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

Fact is, different conditions warrant different behaviors. If you try to glide through a dangerous situation at your company without sacrificing any play or sleep time, you could be in for a big surprise. But if you operate on a continuous "emergency" basis, you could end up with nothing besides a reputation for being a "hard worker." If you operate on the basis of achieving a good personal balance most of the time, that means you probably understand everyone's need for this. And people will respond to that. Most people strive for a "normal" or "balanced" operating basis, and will support leaders who do the same. The leader who can properly discern when his or her company, family, or body need more than the usual amount of attention in is a good position for long-term success.

info
info

There are others that would just call it being wishy-washy, and not being assertive enough to be a leader...

DesertJim
DesertJim

I agree with Scott, early on I was too career focussed, now being a bit older and wiser with a reasonably sucessful career, money in the bank, and mature family it's easy to be balanced. Getting here was a lot harder and many things were sacrified on the way, balance was one of them

itguyinde
itguyinde

All, I recently had "a moment of clarity" in this topic and agree wholeheartedly. I had my epiphany after attending the Bell Leadership Institute Peak Performance class (http://www.bellleadership.com/seminars/ppcl.php). If you or a co-worker have a hard time having balance between work and life, go to this class.

scott
scott

I used to be just career focused, it did bring me early success professionally that has still helped me to this day but I got burnt out. The last few years I've started my own business (Probably busier than before) but I can find time for personal reflection and recharging which is what I lacked early on. A thing that is still wired in me in the early days is the feeling of guilt if I do take personal time to reflect and recharge.. I'm working on this still but I still feel it's my drive to succeed, so I don't try to turn it off too much and kinda feel good that I do have that drive left.

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

Indicate that the first readers of this blog feel they're doing much better than we usually see in our surveys. Congrats to those of you who feel both balanced and successful - their on track toward a life that is fully satisfying.

santeewelding
santeewelding

The "balanced" leader is what it takes to attract the unbalanced -- those who need and accept "leaders".

johnnaras
johnnaras

I have a feeling that most of the readers are natural born leaders, judging from the votes so far...

DesertJim
DesertJim

Absolutely not, I still leave a trail of bodies behind me

albayaaabc
albayaaabc

throw my experience in life I see that how is tuff be good and I believe the secret of job depend on background yours breath yours breaty yours and so on.