A Balanced Life - Does It Make For a Better Leader?

A few weeks ago, one of my clients – a business owner, parent (of four) and wife – sent me an email crying out for help in dealing with the overwhelm enveloping her from all directions.  There is NO balance in her life, and she is desperate for the breathing room that a balanced life would give her.  She is also deeply resistant to finding that balance, desiring more than anything to be the best in all areas.  As a result, she does not take care of herself, and may be doing a deep injustice to her business and her family.  At some point, the pain of not making the effort to create a balanced life will be far more than the pain of the overwhelm she experiences daily.

Why do we aim for a balanced life?  We aim for balance because a balanced leader will develop a healthier business.  They are able to delegate more, rather than racing to answer questions, email and meeting with clients in five minutes or less.  They are more thoughtful in their decision making, and are more effective in their ability to lead.  Their employees are more committed to the company because they know they make a difference.  And, last, but not least, the bottom line results are better.

Leadership will thrive once the owner/parent/wife recognizes the correspondence between work, their personal life and the mission of their company.  This recognition, and making a strong effort to achieve balance in these three life areas, is imperative for leading a fulfilling life.  If you sell your soul to the company, at the end of the day it is likely to fall apart, and the leader without balance may find herself with nothing, including the work that bound them hand and foot throughout her life.

If you sell your soul to the company, at the end of the day it is likely to fall apart,
and the leader without balance may find herself with nothing…

Balance at home is critical, as well.  Setting priorities for the family in making commitments to sports, outside activities, school, church and each other is imperative.  When families are overcommitted, it becomes difficult for everyone, not just the parent(s).  And, the larger the family the more difficult it becomes.  Can you imagine two parents each working a 40 – 60 hour work week, 8 soccer games in five days, a school picnic (parents actively involved in putting it together), five full days of school (with homework), choir rehearsal three times for the week, a concert, church, the oldest child working a part-time job and needing transportation, and a science fair to attend? Making intentional choices when setting priorities for the family, delegating responsibilities for each member of the family, and parents setting boundaries is the only way for balance to occur.  Otherwise, as in the case of my client, each parent will end up compartmentalizing each of their roles, and behaving as expected whenever they find they are in that specific situation.

What happens when you compartmentalize?  You become less than you are.  You fall out of integrity.  You become inauthentic in each of the roles, because you don’t bring the whole you to the table.  And, you begin to build walls.  The challenge of tearing down the walls we build because we think we need them to survive is greater now than it has ever been.  Today’s world asks more of us, not less.

Finding a balance between work and home is one of the most difficult issues a leader can face.  Nothing is cut and dried, and there are continual compromises and setting of priorities that must be made.  We all want to be successful, and have a comfortable family life.  The problem comes when you make it a habit to sacrifice yourself and/or your family for the company (or even sacrifice yourself for your family).  This choice creates pressure both for the leader and the family, and when we don’t focus on what we value, the pain will increase until we are forced to make a different decision or face the possibility of losing what is really important in life.

The key to keeping your work and home life in balance is to check-in often with yourself, be conscious of where you are choosing to step into an unbalanced situation, and make adjustments where they can be made for the sake of your family, friends and for you.  With some real effort, you can live a life of integrity and authenticity as a leader in all areas of your life.