As a child, riding a seesaw was fun, wasn’t it? Well, except when you did not have equal weight on both sides—then it was just out of balance and someone got stuck in mid-air. That bears the question—is your leadership as a parent or colleague out of balance? Most likely it is because statistically, more than 85% of the population tilts toward being strong at either Results or Relationships and weak at the other.
What’s wrong with being out of balance? The idea of balancing results and relationships is nothing new, but if we assume that character is the foundation of leadership, then there should be an inner motivation to accomplish the mission (get results) and take care of people (build relationships). Whether you’re running a household or being a leader in your work or community, you must have a healthy balance of results and relationships to be truly successful. Many times, we rely on other people around us to make up for this imbalance (such as our spouse or a co-worker) instead of learning that balance within ourselves. In the long run, though, living an inner balance by nurturing the people in your life along with accomplishing the mission is crucial to success.
Identify your natural bent. How can you know and what can you do about it? Begin by examining the two columns below and deciding which list of behaviors best describes your “natural” talents. This indicates your natural leadership style and predicts the direction of your tilt as well as the area in which you need to work to improve your balance. If you can’t determine your natural bent, then ask a close friends or members of your family—they can be pretty honest!
Results Oriented Relationship Oriented
* Take charge, decisive * Encouraging, supportive
* Introverted, focused * Trusting
* High standards, task oriented * Good listener
* Challenging, speaks directly * Gives positive feedback
* Logical, organized * Concerned and caring
* Skeptical * Develops others
How do you gain a better balance? First, accept the fact that most of your strengths are natural—we are born with them and they are naturally out of balance. To get better, we have to change by learning some new personality talents (behaviors). You don’t need to give up being who you are, and really you can’t reinvent yourself. Rather, you augment your strengths by adapting new behaviors that will make you more effective. The way you do this is to intentionally learn a few behaviors in your weaker area that bring you more in balance. The reason this is so hard is that it feels awkward and unnatural.
Results-oriented people need to soften up. If this is your style, just the idea of softening seems unnatural; but developing good interpersonal skills is what’s needed to make you a better parent or leader. You know it—you just don’t want to go there. For example, learning to patiently listen, really understand, and then affirm the ideas of others can feel very scary. For some, the needed skill might be learning to give specific, positive feedback. These “soft” skills would be as easy as breathing for many relationship-oriented leaders; but for the tough rational results group, it can be terrifying—they feel out of control and way out of their comfort zone. It takes intentional courage for a thick-skinned, results-oriented person to do these “people” things that are so important.
Relationship-oriented people need to toughen up. If you’re someone whose style is naturally highly relational you will need to identify a couple of behaviors on the results-oriented chart to work on. Quite often this is learning to be more decisive and more direct in giving guidance and setting standards. Having difficult conversations is essential to keeping your family or team moving forward. It may be intimidating, so plan out what you are going to say and then courageously deliver your message; it’s the only way for you to gain a better balance and be the leader you want to be.
Small changes pay big returns. No matter which side of the balance scales you’re on, adapting new behaviors on your weak side even at small levels will lead to significant improvements. Over time they will become easier thus facilitating even further growth and change.
It takes courage to change. You cannot become a better leader by reading books and going to workshops. These are great ways to learn but when it comes down to actual growth, you have to change your behaviors; there’s no other way. You have to give up some of your old habits like dominating or withdrawing and engage others with a more balanced leadership style, and you have to do it under the daily pressures of life and work. That’s what it means to lead with honor and live a positive example for younger generations—having the courage to do what you know you should do.
Take the first step. Well now that you’ve read this, you likely already know what you need to do to gain better balance between results and relationships. What are you going to do differently? Who will you engage to encourage and support you in your growth? As you make progress balancing on this seesaw, help others to gain a better balance, too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lee Ellis is a speaker and the author of “Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton,” in which he shares his experiences as a Vietnam POW and highlights leadership lessons learned in the camps. As president of Leadership Freedom, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, executive development and succession planning. For more information, please visit www.leadingwithhonor.com.