An introduction to the first premise of Balanced Leadership. We live in two worlds: passion based and fear-based. In this, my first video blog, this concept is introduced.
One of inevitable temptations of leadership is getting caught up in the drama of the moment. A situation emerges, emotions arise, tension builds and people invariably turn to the designated leader to put out the fire. Apart from rare life-threatening situations where swift, decisive action is required, most organizational “crises” neither require nor in fact benefit from reactive interventions. There are skills inherent in Balanced Leadership that help leaders avoid the impulsive rush to judgement that typically accompanies moments of drama and tension.
One of the key skills is to develop your capacity to “go to the balcony”, that is to mentally and emotionally remove yourself from the crisis of the moment to calm emotions and gain perspective. “Going to the balcony” is a powerful metaphor that enables leaders to imagine themselves looking at the situation from a distance calmly and without reactivity.
While the underlying intent is not new, the use of the term “going to the balcony” gained prominence through the pioneering work of William Ury at the Global Negotiation Project at Harvard. The ability to step back from emotionally charged, high stakes international disputes to re-gain perspective played a huge party in the resolution of major conflicts.
For Balanced Leaders, going to the balcony means standing back and assessing whether the fear-based world or the passion-based world is the best world to activate in a particular situation. This simple act breaks the cycle of reactivity. Similarly, identifying the archetypal energies that are influencing the situation is another way to go to the balcony and an important first step in providing the leadership necessary to effect positive change.
One of the distinctive characteristics of Balanced Leadership is its recognition and application of our fundamental human drives, be that our higher archetypal impulse to find our place in the world, or the deeply embedded desire we have to contribute to something larger than ourselves. These can only be achieved in the non-reactive state that is reached when we go to the balcony.
Charles Chang ran his company, Vega Health Products, like a one man band. Worked long hours, did all the heavy lifting himself, consumed family vacation time with checking his emails: the usual symptoms of the “unbalanced” leader. But the continued frustration got to him and Charles went looking for solutions. As he recounts in Business in Vancouver magazine, Charles was animated by what he learned about successful companies. Turns out that trying to do it all yourself is not only stress-inducing, it’s bad for business.
Charles revised his leadership approach with spectacular results: Vega revenues tripled and his holiday time with family increased to 14 weeks. In making these major changes, Charles was applying one of the four elements of Balanced Leadership: Archetypal Intelligence. In simple terms, archetypal intelligence is the ability to understand the deep patterns of thought and emotion that shape human behaviour. Charles’ original approach to running his company was characterized by intense, stress-inducing micro management. This shadow archetype of tightly controlled leadership invokes images of the classic Tyrant, wherein the concentrated control stifles employee development and hence company growth. We all have this shadow side to us. Charles’ gift was to recognize this and revise his approach accordingly.
When Charles adopted a different approach to running his company – delegated decision-making, created space for employees to makes mistakes and fix them- he demonstrated the archetypal characteristics of the Warrior King. This approach balances expectations with empowerment, delegates authority with clear objectives, and specifies the skill set each position requires then trains staff accordingly. The Vega company’s dramatically improved bottom line demonstrates the value of Charles’ new leadership approach!