Many leaders say that balance is a novel idea, but it's no longer attainable. Executive leadership coach John M. McKee says that without it you are doomed to fail.
The last two and a half years have called into question a lot of the thinking that was once taken for granted. It's very clear that we in the United States are in the midst of many changes, the combined magnitude of which this country hasn't seen in over 50 years.
And most people don't get it.
Recently I was in San Diego to appear on a television show discussing my new book. I think the level of interest in the book is an indicator that individuals across the spectrum are feeling the pressure of this changing environment. Most don't realize it however. And, for leaders, this is important.
- "There's no such thing as balance for leaders." The speaker, head of IT and Ops for a national organization, was absolutely certain of this. He went on to say that "In today's demanding era, anyone in leadership who's trying to achieve life balance (whatever that means) is inviting failure. Nowadays, there's simply too much to be done every day, and there are too few hands in most companies. It takes every minute of every day just to keep up with the demands."
I understand his feelings. But even if he's right -- he's wrong. Here are the two most important reasons why:
1. If your goal is simply making it through the day, you're going to burn out. Although sheer energy can carry strong people for a long time, at some stage they lose their creativity and they get stagnant. Their value to the organization decreases. They become "replaceable." Over my 30+ years in business, I've seen many great leaders flame out because of that. And there are always others happy to fill your position.
2. If your entire focus is on career success, I can tell you that it's likely you WILL achieve it. Initially this will feel great. The success, and the rush that comes with it, will probably cause you to become even more focused at the job. Because this takes a lot of energy, after hours you'll start viewing a great evening as one where you can decompress, rest up, and clear your head.
But that doesn't exactly make you an exciting and fun person to be around. So, one day, you'll notice that you don't have many close friends calling any more. Worse, you may not have any real love in your life (except for maybe your parents).
As a result, you lose your "value."
Regardless of your past successes, the organization doesn't want someone who is out of energy or has no fresh ideas.
On the personal front, there aren't many people left in your life who care enough to help you move forward. You're circling the drain. When you hear someone say what the guy above told me, don't buy into it. If you are in an organization that believes this and acts like this, I have one suggestion for you: GET OUT!
It may take time to escape, especially in today's job market. But the time to start taking the actions to move to a healthier place is immediately. Otherwise you may have someone else telling you that there's no longer a position for you. Then you're both screwed and friendless.
Here's to Your future,