Select Page

Leaders must find balance!

It seems like I have been leading my entire life!  I was promoted into a leadership position at age 24 at a major institution and I have been leading ever since.  I have led the fundraising operations at major organizations such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, and the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.  Under my leadership nearly $5 billon has been raised!!

I have been mentored by some great bosses.  I have learned so many great lessons. I have been formerly trained by participating in exercises like the IBM Leadership Training Program.  I have studied leadership in business education at the undergraduate and graduate level. I have spent 30+ years leading thousands of employees.  I can recite ad nauseam all the characteristics of an effective leader!

But one characteristic of leadership that I find is rarely discussed is the need for balance in a leader’s life!  Yes, balance!  I am talking about the need for a leader to have balance between their professional life and outside or personal life.  

It is important to be all in at work.  That is leading by example. But to become overly obsessed and blinded by a total “there is nothing else going on in the world” attitude is unhealthy and is not going to help you become an effective leader.

I’ll always remember the current University of Miami head football coach Mark Richt being interviewed and saying it was important “not to let your job define who you are.”  Coach Richt’s statement really struck a chord with me.  As leaders we need to have that proper balance in our lives!

Our employees have lives outside of work.  They have issues they are dealing with. They could be dealing with children, personal issues or financial issues.  They are thinking about their plans and aspirations for the future.

And as a leader you need to make sure your employees know that you care about them and understand the need for balance.  I realize there are boundaries in what we can talk about with our staff members but in general advocating for that balance for your staff would be a great way to show them that you truly do care about them.  

Of all the bosses I have ever had, only one asked me what I wanted to accomplish in my career.  I’ll never forget how much I appreciated that my boss actually asked me about my career and was willing to help me achieve those goals.  Most bosses are in roles where everything seems to be about them.

As leaders, we seem to push, push, and push all the time.  We look for commitment, dedication and sacrifice. We talk about team goals and the need to work together to achieve a greater good.  We expect our team members to be to work early and work late and often over the weekends. We do it, so we think our employees should do it as well.

At least, that’s the way I was.  I can remember driving my family to vacation in Nantucket and seeming to be on the phone most of the way on work related matters.  I felt I couldn’t miss a beat – let alone a phone call – or that things would fall apart. Life goes on and most of the time whatever was so imperative to talk about on the phone during the vacation could have easily waited until my return to work.  Nobody is that important!

I didn’t have balance that week.  I took cherished vacation time away from my family that weekend because I was too obsessed with work.  Here I was in one of the most beautiful places in the country on vacation with my family and I kept checking emails and making work phone calls.  I needed a break from work to get refreshed and energized and I didn’t take advantage of it. Are you kidding?

But one major leadership lesson I have learned over the years that we rarely talk about is the need for leaders to have balance and a life outside of work.  You need to enjoy yourselves, to build a personal life, find interests, and to get away from work.

So leaders, find balance in your life.  Yes, you want a total commitment from your employees.  But being an effective leader means you must build an office culture that promotes finding balance.   You will be better off. Your employees will be better off. And you will be a more effective leader.