What Does it Mean to Be a Balanced Leader?

Susan S Freeman Blog

AlignmentWelcome to 2016!  This month we address a topic often longed for in the first month of the New Year:  Balance.  After the hectic holiday season and as the first few days of the calendar unfold,  many of us desire to create something different.  One word I often hear is “balance”. We write the words “create more balance” on our goals.  While on a leadership team call today, a participant stated that one of his top 2016 goals is seeking more balance for his team members after a particularly difficult year of implementation challenges.

So, what is balance for a leader? And how do we create, sustain it, and lead from it?

In an earlier post, I’ve written that “humans are pre-wired for balance.”

The challenge we often have is we assume that if we can just get our external circumstances to “line up” we can experience that elusive feeling of “balance” even if for just a short while.  This is a fallacy; it may happen this way, but it can’t be sustained over the longer term.

Why?  Because everything is always in a state of change.  We may operate wishfully thinking that if we just want it enough, we can grasp or hold onto things, places, and people, just as they are.  Unfortunately, this mindset is the very thing that creates “imbalance”.

Managing Polarity

For a leader, balance means being able to navigate between the polarities; those areas we perceive as “opposite” yet they can both be true.   One that came to mind earlier today occurred when each participant on a team was asked to “check-in” on how they were doing as we began.    One by one they spoke; many stated “busy”. The next person surprised us all, breaking rank when he stated “I’m relaxed”.  Everyone chuckled.  I used it as an opportunity to speak about managing the polarity of balance as a leader—how you can be both “busy” AND “relaxed”.

[notification type=”alert-info” close=”false” class=”half-width float-right” ] For a Leader, Balance Means Being Able to Navigate Between Polarities [/notification]

You may say “that’s impossible”.  For the balanced leader, this is achieved through conscious intention and continuous practice.  Learning how to still the re-active, repetitive problem-solving mind by being silent; centering, and breathing deeply is the gateway.

A balanced state of being allows leaders to manage between polarities.  Unlike problems that can be solved by one unique right answer—a polarity is a concern that requires focusing on two inter-dependent, diametrically opposed right answers.  Neither is wrong or right. You are dealing with a polarity if you are seeking the right thing to do and the solutions you are considering are opposite and interrelated.

A polarity requires both, and thinking to be managed. Polarities cannot be solved.  The idea for leaders is to learn to weave back and forth.  Agility is the key to balance.

[well type=””]Here are a few common polarities leaders experience:

  • Long term/Short term
  • People/Profits
  • Cost/Quality
  • Task/Relationship
  • Strategic/Tactical
  • Reaction/Response
  • Leading/Following
  • Control/Empowerment
  • Individual/Team

[/well]You can bring balance into 2016 by considering how you are being in relationship to the above “polarities”.  Are you able to hold both variables; being curious, open, and accepting of others and differing points of view?

If you responded “yes,” you are well on your way to balanced leadership.

I invite you to post your comments here.  To see how balanced your leadership is, take my complimentary leadership effectiveness quotient and learn how you can make 2016 your year of balance.


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