Written by: Contego
I have written about leadership before, and some of you may have already read those thought pieces. Regardless, leadership is one of the most researched, studied, and yet misunderstood complexities of human behavior I have encountered. There are many studies, countless books, articles, and innumerable opinions on the subject; yet I find none of them capture the essence as I understand it.
That should sound a warning bell to you, dear reader. As I have yet to find satisfactory descriptions, explanations, and analyses on leadership in general, its principles, and how a man can develop it; I know my own outlook will differ from yours… and it should. We are all the sums of our experiences, education, training, personalities, and worldviews; therefore our personal outlook on things will differ, regardless of subject.
I am compelled to write about the subject from time to time, either as a result of inspiration, or out of a rising need. Today I write as a prompt from both factors, and I want to address two of the very difficult aspects of leadership: balance and separation. They may seem completely unrelated, but in fact, they are intertwined to form a knot that can foment indecision and confusion. Let us begin.
As with nearly everything else, balance is critical in developing and exercising leadership. A leader must first strike a balance in his personal life. This will not only enable him to remain of sound mind and body, but it will also allow him to project that balance in his professional life. It also minimizes chaos, and maximizes order; something from which we all can benefit.
To strike a balance in his personal life, a leader must honestly assess the areas in which imbalance exists. This starts with an introspective look at himself. In what areas of the body-mind-soul connection can he improve? An honest look should provide honest answers and from there, a leader can develop a personal plan of action.
Once a leader brings more balance into his own life and personal relationships, he can then translate that into more balance within his professional life. Order in a leader’s personal life benefits his ability to lead himself and others in his professional life. It is a mutually-beneficial relationship; rare is the leader who has order in one aspect of his life but not the other.
A man who gains and maintains order in both his personal and professional lives is able to grow and mature as a balanced leader. He has set himself up to live and to serve as an example to others, and this carries much weight with those he leads. A balanced man is a balanced leader; therefore, it follows that a balanced leader leads a balanced organization.
A leader must be able to balance his personal and professional lives so that the two do not interfere with each other. If this were to occur, it would negatively affect both, and thus adversely affect relationships in each. This would be disastrous, as leadership runs on relationships. A leader must keep himself and his house in order at all times so that he can keep his organization in order. To maintain that balance; he needs separation.
A leader must at once be accepted by his men, and yet remain separate from them. This is a difficult concept to understand, and an even more difficult policy for most men to embrace. It can be unpleasant at times, especially for the leader, but this does not lessen its necessity.
There are times when a leader can – and should – be “one of the guys,” but to do this too often is to erode his status as a leader and foster a sense of familiarity that can erode his authority. Furthermore, if a leader becomes too familiar with his men, they will begin to feel empowered to question his leadership.
Being overly familiar can also make transitioning from “one of the men” to “leader” extremely difficult at times. It can breed second-guessing and can lessen the leader’s authority and the power of his word. Consequently, it makes regaining his lost authority that much more difficult, especially the longer that appropriate separation is missing.
Being a leader is a lonely life, but a lonely life can be necessary for strong leadership to prevail in the face of adversity. By being able to separate himself from his men in a timely manner, a leader can strike an important balance in his leadership style. Once this is done, a good leader can endear himself to his men while still maintaining his authority over them; both in good times, and bad.
Men must be separated into those who wear the mantle of leadership responsibly and those who do not. Both the leaders and the led must understand this necessity. A leader is responsible for everything his men do, or fail to do. On this principle rests a leader on his lonely pedestal. To do otherwise is to be little more than the leader of a mob. No leader worth his salt wants that; therefore the men who understand the principle of separation are those who make the best leaders.
This includes advisors and councilors, who are not leaders themselves but rather men whose experience, education, training, and wisdom put them into positions from which their advice carries with those men who do lead. It is unwise to doubly task subordinate leaders to serve as advisors; this responsibility must be separate and distinct so as to prevent conflicts of interest and thus keep advisors from tainting the leaders. After all, every man has his role and all work together for the good of the organization.
Putting It All Together
I have seen many a good man and leader falter when his life is not in balance. I have also seen imbalance and a lack of separation undermine otherwise good leaders. I have suffered from both of these at various times in my more than five decades of life, and I do not want to see my brothers suffer as I did. I want you to learn from my life lessons, so you can succeed more than I. I need that. You need that. Our people need that.
Gentlemen, I implore you to strive for balance in yourselves and your own lives. From this stable foundation, you will find balanced order in your professional lives, and this will carry into your development as strong leaders. There will be times when you falter or fail outright. But you know what to do. You have the blueprint. Embrace the suck and man up. Be the man and the leader who you were born to be.