Leonard W. Heflich, innovator and writer, shared his tips for becoming a more balanced leader.
Throughout my career, I have always been motivated by success. It's not that money isn't important or that recognition doesn't feel good, but success is actually what drives most of us.
For instance, in high school, I ranked 35 in a class of 150 students, which earned me a place in the honors class – as number 35 out of 35 students. From there, I was determined to work harder than anyone else in that class because everyone was smarter than I was.
That's when I learned my first lesson in leadership: You must find balance between working hard, finding success and having fun while doing so.
Without hard work, there is no success; without success, there is no fun; and without fun, there is no hard work. It is a virtuous cycle that carries us to ever higher levels of achievement. Here's how to use it while becoming a better leader.
Lead and follow at the same time
At work, whenever a job needed to be done and no one was doing it, I did it. Only once out of dozens of times, I was told to stop because it wasn't my job. The other times, I learned something new and was recognized as a leader and a great follower.
It was easy for management to pick me for promotion when the time came – I was ready and capable of doing the job. In fact, even my peers applauded my promotion to become their boss, because they knew I had earned it. I was starting to learn the value of balance in leadership.
I always volunteered for the big and challenging assignments in my career and made it a point to learn from mistakes instead of repeating them. Success only confirms that we are right; we learn nothing new. A mistake, however, tells us that our understanding is wrong or incomplete and that there is something to learn.
Strive to be the expert in anything you do, and make learning part of your everyday activity.
The turning point, for me, came when our biggest manufacturing plant was in jeopardy of closing. I asked for the opportunity to turn it around. At first, my boss thought I was crazy, but the next day, he gave me the job. I used that opportunity to test and expand my skills as a balanced leader.
Balance was critical because it was a large and complex facility that presented many different leadership challenges. If I was to succeed, I would have to be flexible enough to apply the right leadership style to each situation. My model worked, and we turned that plant around in three years.
When a leader is in balance, they optimize the performance of their team to achieve results that often exceed expectations. Balance is defined by a trade-off between the benefits and costs associated with any decision or behavior. The optimal decision point is achieved when the costs are minimized, and the benefits maximized.
Achieving balance is a dynamic process, requiring constant monitoring and adjusting. Like riding a bicycle, the rider must watch for potholes and curves in the road ahead, then be flexible to adapt so as not to lose balance. The optimal balance point today will surely be different tomorrow.
This is one of the reasons why even successful leaders sometimes fail. When circumstances change, they may not notice or perhaps discount the need to adjust their leadership style to compensate. The result is loss of balance, suboptimal performance and eventual failure.
We can all benefit from being better leaders and followers, and we can do so with balance and passion.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.