As I sit down and write my first essay for 2021, I am sharing an idea that I am facing personallyâ€¦. the difficult and always changing â€œbalancing actâ€ of being a leader. Itâ€™s interesting (and pretty wonderful) after 35+ years in business to still be learning new lessons, facing new challenges, and growing as a leader. I took some time over the holidays to reflect on leading a wonderful organization in the face of Covid and the various business challenges we are facing today. A central theme in my self-assessment was how challenging it was to keep a sense of â€œbalanceâ€ in my leadership approach in 2020. Lets take a few minutes and review a few thoughts on â€œLeadership balanceâ€ across situations/times (not just through the lens of 2020) and think about a few ideas that might be helpful broadly.
I will assume for now that all the readers of this essay have driven a car, sailed a boat, or ridden a bike in their lifetimes. Imagine one of those moments and think about â€œsteeringâ€ that car/boat/bike from one point to another. The reality of any of those situations is that you CANâ€™T just point to your destination and be done with the task, you are ALWAYS ADJUSTING your direction, a little left or right, port or starboard to account for turns in the road, waves on the lake, wind direction and intensity, etc. In order to reach oneâ€™s destination, you have to always adjust your steeringâ€¦ we are always adjusting our direction to be successful! It’s the same in leading an organization, we need to always adjust our approach, always â€œcorrectâ€ a bit if we â€œover-steerâ€ and always compensate for the changing environment to adjust our steering!
I am a person and a leader that always looks for the data/metrics/stats in many situations. I hold onto the â€œscienceâ€ of a situation, whether that relates to Covid vaccination results/ testing protocols, or when I recently bought new tires for our car and dove into the test review metrics, I usually start by digging into the â€œobjectiveâ€ data of any situation. This past year has taught me new lessons on the need to â€œbalanceâ€ that â€œobjectiveâ€ orientation with a renewed focus on the â€œsubjectiveâ€ side of things. When I casually ask one of my team members on a private call/zoom â€œhow they are doing,â€ I need to be REALLY READY to fully hear them and their responses. At times over the past 10 months, I have heard responses to that question that have included family members passing, the inability to be with a sick child in the hospital, personal fear having just received a positive Covid test, and the list goes onâ€¦. the responses have been heartfelt, poignant and intense, often superseding any of the business challenges of the moment. Leaders must find a balance between the objective business metrics of the moment and the subjective emotional state of the team, and me that balancing act has been really hard this past year. I have no panacea or easy leadership â€œbuzzwordâ€ that is easy to follow on this one, but just start by recognizing an old idea that you â€œmanage project and lead people,â€ and as such, we as leaders need to come to that moment focusing on the well-being of our people first!
Finally I want to comment on the need/requirement of leaders in these challenging times to be strong with their intellect (IQ) AND their emotional intelligence (EQ) to be successful. Once again it’s a balance, but neither side can overwhelm the whole! A successful leader needs to use all of his/her brainpower, and all of his/her â€œheartpower,â€ to handle the challenges we are facing today. I have found it too easy to focus more on the IQ side, thus being out of â€œbalanceâ€ with the EQ needs of the company and the team. Work with a friend/coach /mentor to help you find the strength and the â€œbalanceâ€ to bring both sides of â€œIntelligenceâ€ to bear in your work everyday!
As I said at the start, this has been a very challenging year on so many fronts, and a year full of learning and growth certainly for me. I am working on this idea of â€œLeadership Balance,â€ and I hope you can find ways to bring this idea to life in your worlds as we dive into the hope/optimism & challenges of 2021!
Postscript: One reflection I wanted to share in this essay is how hard it is to be a â€œbalanced leaderâ€ when you arenâ€™t feeling very balanced as an individual. 2020 has been incredibly hard and stressful for the entire world, and I for one didn’t FEEL very â€œbalancedâ€ as the year came to an end. Work was stressful, family dynamics in the context of Covid were challenging, sleep was hard to find, and the list goes onâ€¦.. all adding to the barriers of being a â€œbalanced leader.â€ We need to both give ourselves the room to acknowledge those challenges and take actions to find ways to add (not subtract) personal balance in our lives.