Category Archives: teams

it’s time for balanced leadership…

it’s time for balanced leadership…

– posted by jacki nicholas – 27 June 2012

From our many years of working with all sorts of leaders – each with their own strengths, challenges and learning edges – Air knows that the balanced leader is able to lead self, others, organisation and community.  They understand the importance of who they are ‘being’ as a leader as apposed to just what they are ‘doing’ in their role.

Balanced leaders lead consciously with their head, heart, spirit and gut.  With a personal compass of purpose, values and ‘trait-based’ character strengths, leaders operate from a core that lies beyond competencies.  While remaining authentic and ‘present’, they take people, ideas, ethics and organisations to a place where clarity, structure, connectedness and impact integrate to become the norm.

A 2011 global leadership survey revealed that many people in the workplace are disillusioned and even ‘damaged’ by the poor leadership around them. The results are quite staggering:

  • Nearly 70% of employees switch jobs because of ‘bad’ bosses
  • 60% claimed their bosses damaged their self-esteem
  • 42% felt that workplace conflict was either “never” or “only sometimes” handled effectively, and
  • 37% said they were “never” or “only sometimes” motivated to give their best.1

Most managers don’t start out with the intent to have a negative impact. These results are symptoms of chronic imbalance and outdated command-and-control models which fail to engage a modern mobile, global workplace where ambiguity and virtual work environments abound.

History is steeped in dramatic examples of what happens when imbalance and extremes become the norm.  Recent events such as the Global Financial Crisis, corporate corruption, the Eurozone Crisis and the Arab Spring powerfully demonstrate the negative impact of the absence of healthy counterbalance.  It’s time for balanced leadership.

What strategies can organisations adopt to increase productivity, satisfaction and engagement to balance the workplace?

At Air, we’ve found that there are two key ways of achieving balanced leadership.

One way is to select and grow individual leaders who are, in themselves, balanced.  This is a healthy goal for any leader, and a crucial development priority for any organisation.  Yet we also know this is an ongoing journey –  it doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time for individuals to understand their strengths and weaknesses, to become aware of and address their blindspots, to experiment with polarities, to manage the overuse of their strengths, and to face their shadows.  Building self-awareness, engaging in challenging work situations, reflecting on lessons learned, mentoring, executive coaching and leadership training are just some of the ways individuals can become balanced leaders.

The second way is to build balanced leadership in combination –  to create teams, especially executive teams, with diverse individual leaders whose polarities and differences – in styles, preferences, capabilities, character, culture and gender, to just name a few.  Theoretically, this is the quickest way to establish balanced leadership.  For example, recent research shows that companies with boards that include female members significantly outperform companies with only male board members.   Air has a broad toolkit for diagnosing the current balance of organisations and teams and identifying the nature of any imbalances.

Organisations are starting to realise that achieving and maintaining balanced leadership is an ongoing mission and dynamic.  Diversity and polarity bring their own challenges and the executives must learn to genuinely embrace difference, build trust, manage conflict and have robust conversations in order to become a high performance team.

The messages all around us in corporate and public life are telling us that it’s time for balanced leadership.  Smart organisations embrace both of these methods of attaining it.  What is your executive team and organisation doing?

©2012 Air Institute Pte Ltd

  1. Source: Weaver, Pete & Simon Mitchell (2011) ‘Lessons for Leaders from the People Who Matter‘  – DDI