Monday, 14 December 2015

How to re-establish leadership balance in a boundary less world?

Gone are the ‘good old days’ where we could list on the right hand side of our screen or page what “defines” a manager and on the left hand side of the page the “features” defining a leader.

In today’s busy business and work world, we are continuously bombarded with information through all sorts of channels & technology, on an ongoing 24/7 basis. As a result, our jobs need our constant attention. We need to be able to solve problems, make decisions, strategize, and support our virtual and non-virtual teams and all of this at the speed of light. It can be really difficult to keep any kind of boundaries and sometimes nearly impossible.
Managers need to be leaders and leaders need to be managers. Referring to leading and managing as ‘either or’ won’t help us to navigate the complex realities of our work environment nor those of the global economic, social, political or business landscape.
At MCE, we believe that Management and Leadership is not only expressed and best applied alongside a ‘continuum’ (see below graph #1) but it is also 360 degree and holistic.


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Getting the right balance between knowing and managing yourself, knowing how to lead others and knowing the business is key in being a successful manager today. As a manager there are times when you need to manage functional tasks and others times when you are required to take important strategic decisions, have a vision, and to inspire others to outperform. The ability to demonstrate and apply both is critical.


Many other boundaries or limits are also being effected by the fast moving world we live in. For example a clear separation between work life and private life is becoming more difficult to achieve. There are many ongoing contradictions that make it more difficult to define a clear identity and clear roles. Technology is no longer a ‘means’ to an end or a channel of communication for example, but it defines who we are and blurs the lines between private life and business life. We are always connected. So, knowing yourself (Leading Self) and ‘being in balance with yourself’ is even more critical than it ever has been.

But how can you know if you are in balance if you don’t know what your boundaries should be? How do you know what is right and what is wrong? When should you stop responding to emails that come to your mailbox 24 hours a day?

So let us review some quick tips to help you focus on what matters and to set the boundaries that we need to be better leaders, managers, partners, individuals, parents…:

  • Set boundaries: start with defining what these are for you. It starts with you and managing yourself: stop and reflect.  What does life balance mean for me? What do I need to be in balance?
  • Define the most important areas: Which areas of my life are important to me and which out of these do I personally rank as my top three: (e.g.. spending quality time with my family, doing outdoor sports, seeing friends, contributing to society or to the community, travelling, time to reflect etc.)
  •  Reflect: To what extent I am honouring these or neglecting these areas? What’s the possible negative impact this lack of balance is having on myself, my environment and the way I manage and lead?
  •  Act: What behaviours and habits am I willing to change to re-establish my personal balance and by when and how will I do this?
  •  Measure: How do I know I have succeeded to get my balance back? (E.g. more time for myself, more energy, more helpful to my team members, less stress etc.)

To be great managers and leaders in today’s demanding world where little boundaries exist, our first job is to be conscious of the boundaries we need to set to enable us to act as great leaders. These can be different for different people. Once we are aware of these, we need to assess whether they are being challenged by outside demands and if so, how we can get back our control over the way we manage our environment, not the other way around. The best leaders are those who are versatile. This means they can manage and lead whenever it is needed and they can adapt and be holistic in their way of leading (self, others, business). However the most important aspect is to get a good balance. Being out of balance will lead to stress, low energy, lower productivity and ultimately less good people & business leadership.

In the next post we will explore further, the impact of your lack of balance on your personal health, your team’s engagement, and your creativity.


About the author: 
Natalie Schurmann
Natalie Schurmann supports MCE with the design and quality of the open enrolment programmes. Natalie Schurmann has over 15 years’ experience in leadership development, executive coaching, leadership training and design and psychometric assessments. Natalie’s global delivery has impacted numerous regions including Europe, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, India, Russia, and Africa.


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