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Leadership Development 28 January 2014

Leadership - a balanced diet of work and life

How blurring the lines between the personal and the professional may just be the key to leadership success...

In our increasingly digitally-connected world, we have a stream of updates competing for our attention and there’s no distinction between friends and colleagues on our news feed. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself having work colleagues that you interact with nearly every day and friends you’ve never actually met in person.

Work-life balance - a 21st century balancing act

In 2014 the lines between work life and personal life can be very blurry. This is even more of a challenge when you love what you do, as there is less of a tendency to leave it behind when you sign-off at the end of the day. Equally, the ideas you discuss around the dining table can find their way from the dining room to the meeting room or the board room. 

It’s no surprise that ‘work-life balance’ continues to be a real challenge for business people. 

One of Simon Sinek's most intriguing ideas is that the stress we associate with being out of balance is less a result of working extended hours and more about where we feel safe and protected. He goes as far as to say we have two families, one at home and one at work and that we have a similar duty of care to employees and family members.

Selfless leaders eat last

What if we were to apply the principles of family life to our work environment? I believe that it’s our responsibility as leaders to provide a safe, nurturing environment for individuals to learn and grow. True leaders serve their people and make sacrifices for them. In Simon’s words, they eat last. This means acting selflessly, wanting our people to achieve more than we achieve ourselves. Just the kind of unconditional love we show for our family.

I believe that the secret to getting the most out of work, and life, is to move beyond the notion of a separate ‘working life’ and ‘personal life’ and focus on the higher motives that guide both. Rather than ‘work-life balance’, this thinking leads to ‘one life’: a life that is fulfilling, authentic, on purpose and whole.

Blending the professional and the personal

At Insights we say ‘bring your whole self to work’. One of my colleagues (who I also consider a friend) recently coined the phrase ‘taking your whole self home from work’, as a way of describing the need for time to relax and recharge, so that your work hours are more effective.

Maybe the secret is doing a little more of both. Perhaps our aspiration should not necessarily be a greater degree of separation. Instead we should look for opportunities for the two to enrich and support each other, and encourage our people to do the same – creating a kind of ‘whole-life balance’ – or ‘one life’.

I’ll have the privilege of welcoming Simon Sinek to the stage next week at the Insights-sponsored Leadership and the Golden Circle event in London. Maybe I’ll ask him for his view.

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