Balance is such a fascinating topic. I'm typically the type of person who loves black and white answers. I like knowing with confidence whether a direction is right or wrong, an answer correct or incorrect, or a choice good or bad. And into this preferred world of clearly delineated outcomes there is introduced this little thing called balance. Balance is in many cases the exact opposite of black and white. Balance is a blending of opinions. Balance is the epitome of a gray area.

And this ambiguity is why I believe balance is so very difficult for so many people; and yet so critically important in life. Over the weekend I was considering this aspect of balance as it relates to leadership and trying to understand why this subject is so invaluable. Here's my quick thoughts based on my ruminations. Read through them and tell me what you think.

Balance implies understanding

When I think about balance in leadership one of the first things which comes to mind is this idea of understanding. Without proper understanding it is very hard to find balance. Let me put it in a different perspective. Without knowing what the options are in a situation it is difficult to make a decision but even more important it is impossible to find a good compromise. How we listen is critical therefore. Because if we don't listen to those involved in the situation it is practically impossible for us to understand and therefore find a compromise which makes sense for everyone.

There's an important concept to consider when listening to others and seeking a compromise. First, finding a balance means being willing to not get everything you want. Second, finding a balance might not feel the same to everyone. You see, just because there's a compromise doesn't mean you meet exactly in the middle. And this leads directly to my second thought regarding balance.  

Balance requires finesse

A good sense of balance requires finesse. I'm sure we've all witnessed someone with an uncanny sense of balance, whether that's the classic tight-rope walker, a gymnast, a figure skater, or even those crazy, cool, and incredibly calm individuals who practice the zen techniques of stone stacking (I admit, these have to be some of my personal heroes). In every one of these situations these highly skilled individuals exercise finesse to accomplish this balance. In much the same way, a good leader growing in their ability to lead and demonstrate balance must showcase their finesse.

In the first point above I mentioned that the compromise in balance does not always mean equality. Having the ability to listen, hear opposing views, form an opinion and establish a compromise requires an incredible amount of finesse. Now, I don't mean finesse in the sense that they slyly manipulate people to agree to their point of view. Instead I mean finesse in being able to elegantly navigate a (typically) tense situation and express their views without causing a negative visceral reaction.

Balance is not accidental

The final thought I had regarding balance related to the idea that balance is never accidental. There's no chance a gymnast performing on the balance beam will accidentally demonstrate perfect balance when performing a handstand or forward flip on a four inch wide beam. No, in fact, the reality is very, very different. That gymnast has practiced their routine thousands of times just to land that precarious spot. The amount of work and effort they have put into acquiring that sense of balance gets praised and acknowledged when their moment in the spotlight comes.

Leaders must also continue to practice their skills and improve their "balance" continually. But there's a difference between a strong leader and the athlete we considered previously. Just as the athlete's hard work and perseverance is recognized and rewarded in the public spotlight the leader's sense of balance is inversely unnoticed. But this doesn't mean the outcome is any less meaningful.

Great leaders aren't usually recognized for their finely tuned sense of balance but they have almost certainly spent significant time growing and strengthening that particular skill.

Those are just a few of my thoughts recently as I considered the incredible power of a great leader to exhibit balance. This balance is most definitely something which requires finesse, understanding, and practice. A great leader is deliberate in this pursuit. A great leader recognizes only by becoming an expert in balance can they maximize their potential with their customers, with their company, and with their team. What do you think? Have you experienced a balanced leader? Have you recognized their ability to remain balanced in the face of confusion or adversity?