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

by  Georgia Feiste  |  Workplace Issues

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.


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Shawn  |  31 May 2011  |  Reply

The most important distinction you point out is how important it is to find balance in the roles we all have in life. I make a slight change to this belief by replacing the work balance with integrated. Balance implies some sort of “equalness” which in today’s world is incredibly difficult to reach. Instead, we must find ways to integrate all our roles in our lives, accepting that one role may dominate, BUT creating and recreating the discipline to ensure no one role dominates.
As you so accurately and describe the downfalls of not having balance or an integrated life.

Also, I loved reading the traps of compartmentalizing roles. Spot on Georgia!

This is an important message for all of us to hear and to know what our response is to it.

Nicely done,

Georgia Feiste  |  31 May 2011  |  Reply

Thank you for your comments, Shawn.

I agree with you about balance. We are never completely and equally balanced. Our goal should be to create a conscious balance where at any point in time one aspect of our life may dominate. For example: When we choose to attend college – we give up time and money in order to do that. It is a conscious decision, knowing that we will benefit in all areas of life when we have completed this task. When we choose to be parents, we consciously know that our children will take a huge chunck of time that we may have previously expended for work, play, relationships, etc. The challenge is in maintaining “relative” balance, I think, and consciously integrating all aspects well.

Hope you are having a great day!


carrie  |  31 May 2011  |  Reply

I am touched by your topic and would love to bring this to a focus group at work. Can you recomend a book on this topic?
many thanks.

Georgia Feiste  |  31 May 2011  |  Reply

Carrie – There are a number of books you could read about creating balance, but the book that inspired my blog is on Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. The same author, Bill George, wrote Finding Your True North. In addition, I recommend The Energy of Money and Mastering Life’s Energies, by Maria Nemeth Phd. All of these books speak to setting priorities, intentions and living your values. Which is what balance is all about…

Hope this helps.


Susan Mazza  |  31 May 2011  |  Reply

Excellent exploration of the notion of balance and the cost of our resistance to creating it in a futile attempt to be all things to all people. You point to a context that I think is clearly in the way for many – that productivity is a function of being more and more efficient as our plate overflows so we can do more and more vs about learning to be effective which requires we make strategic choices in every domain so we leverage the best of what we have to offer and keep our attention on what is most important to us,

Georgia Feiste  |  31 May 2011  |  Reply

Here, Here, Susan. You hit the nail on the head. Thank you for your comments. I know that I struggled with this for years as I climbed the corporate ladder, and it is so ingrained in me that I continue to need a constant reminder to keep my focus on my priorities and my intentions and not get distracted by the “golden carrot” that gets dangled in front of me on a regular basis. It saddens me to watch others struggle to the point of making themselves ill before they get it.

Stephan De Villiers  |  09 Jun 2011  |  Reply

All of life is a balancing act. The key to keeping your balance is not to have one side carry more weight than the other. Making sure you distribute your time and resources in a balanced way in order to avoid letting one side get to heavy is more art than science. However you should actively focus on keeping this balance, since it will not happen on its own. Sometimes you have to say no to an are in your life that demands to much time an resources.

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