In a recent issue of HBR researcher postulated that in the global marketplace no leader is capable of leading a balanced life. One executive proclaimed that he felt it was “impossible” to have a great family life, hobbies and an amazing career at the same time. Numerous leaders when interviewed by researchers “in one way or another” believed that this is the reality of the business world in 2014 and beyond. The conclusion seems to be that the two institutions of family and the workplace can’t coexist. I say hogwash. It is the choices that we make and while the factors that make this a truism or not are many because of those choices. However, I firmly believe that with reflection, a strategic vision for self and profession, prioritization and focus we can and must have both.
Here’s why. First as I personally have experienced, “life happens,” the ground opens up and shakes you to the bottom of your soul. For me it was a personal matter, my mother passed away at a very, very busy time in my business life and like too many others I found myself ignoring, to one degree or another, all of the events leading up to her passing. I found that, mentality, I suffered from a confidence that everything would work out, yet her actual passing demanded that I take a true pause and face the reality of what I was doing. My mom had taught me a lesson even in death. “Everything in moderation” was one her favorite axioms. In this case it was far too real.
Another lesson learned had to do with my career path. I had it all laid out as to how I would rise to the pinnacle position in my chosen field only to have the reality of having a family jump out at me. I will never forget my son requesting at the time of salary increases at work, would I ask for time off rather than money. He said it would be worth more to him and his brother and sister if they could see me more often than anything that more money could buy. It was then that I realized that you don’t get any “do-overs” raising kids. They are only in kindergarten, middle or high school one time, and those times are fleeting. You get the picture I am sure.
Finally, it became abundantly clear to me early in my career that as the book title, No Man is an Island, intimates nobody can go it alone. Clearly the days of the go it alone, rugged individualist leader are over. In order to walk whichever path to success you want to take, no path can be walked alone. Support systems and relationships are fundamental to anyone’s success either personal or professional. I challenge you to examine your networks. Do you know if the members of those networks can be counted on to be there for you during the tough decisions and challenges you face? If you don’t really know the answer to that question, it behooves you to spend time finding out. When you do make a plan to develop those relationships that you NEED, let them be the foundation of the success and achievement you desire.
The bottom line is to focus on the balance you need to meet the challenges that are barriers to the success you are looking forward to and working toward. It is my belief that the leader who can do this, find work life balance, will be more than successful, he or she will be happy and fulfilled as well.