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.