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A Leader Worth Following: Professionally & Personally

Jeremy D. Walls's picture

Author Andy Stanley once said, “To become a leader worth following, you must give time and attention to the inner man.”

In conversations with several industry leaders regarding the ongoing battle to find a life/work balance, many expressed frustration with being a “B” in all areas of life: at work, at home, in relationships, taking care of health, etc. I can relate. One theme continued to surface during our conversations: It’s easy to find a leader we admire professionally or personally (e.g. husband/wife, father/mother, and friend). But, it becomes a lot tougher to find leaders who exemplify what we hope to be professionally and personally.

The problem is magnified when it comes to the industry of sports. Not necessarily due to the people within the industry, but more to do with the hours and expectations. You can make a fair argument that it is impossible to be an "A" in both areas in our business. Even those of us who think we can balance it all and be the best in all areas understand at some point we will have to sacrifice something….something will have to take a back seat. The unfortunate thing for many of us is that the personal side of our lives is what usually gets shoved out of the front seat and we cram what we can into the back seat. So, we improve our professional grade to a B+. But, on the personal side we quickly find ourselves getting a C or a D.

For some, this imbalance is OK. Work is life. Success in work is what seems to make them happy. Yet, I think for most of us, success is defined more by having the love and respect of those closest to us among our family, friends, and colleagues.

The Right Incentive

“Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.” ~Clayton M. Christensen, the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

So what does this mean? What is the solution? How do we find balance? I am not sure. However, I have talked with and observed several successful leaders who are intentional about improving their personal lives. Interestingly, they noticed that when things are stronger on the personal side of their lives, an environment is created to be stronger professionally. Here a few challenging examples from our peers who all score high professionally, but want to improve their grades on a personal level.

Proactively Seek Accountability& Support
I know several successful professionals who meet once a week with a group of men at a similar stage of life professionally and personally. Each week they read a chapter of a book and come prepared to discuss it with the group. However, the catch is the books are about things like being a good father, or a faithful husband, or a community advocate, or more committed to their faith. They discuss it, challenge each other, and many times walk away with action items. Sound weird or uncomfortable? Why? We meet all the time in a similar fashion to discuss our professional growth. Why not meet and discuss ways to improve personally?

Get Aggressive
I recently read about a CEO who wanted to commit more time to his family’s needs. He asked his wife, “If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change about my schedule?” He did not promise he could accommodate, but he was curious. She informed him that from 5:30 – 7:30 is hands down the hardest part of the day due to the dinner, the kid’s bath, and bedtime. She said, “It would be amazing if you could be home then.” So he made a change. He started his day at the office much earlier. In fact, he told customers and employees he would meet with them at any time in the morning, even if it was at 4:30 am. Sometimes he even had back-to-back breakfasts. However, he is home every night from 5:30 – 7:30 helping his wife. After spending another hour with his wife, on most nights he gets back on the computer for a couple hours before bed. I know in sports this is almost impossible. But, you get the point.

Sharpen Your Iron
Jim Rohn said, “Ask yourself who you are around. What do they have you saying? What do they have you reading? Where do they have you going? What do they have you becoming? Then ask yourself the most important question…is that OK?” In the book of Proverbs the author says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Are the people you spend the most amount of time around making you sharper? Do they make you better? Do you connect beyond talking about sports, women, the weather, and other things?

Find personal mentors
One thing I have noticed of really successful people I’ve met: They have multiple mentors. We understand the need to have professional mentors. The same holds true personally. Why not have multiple mentors who help guide us in our personal life? As I’ve thought more about these influences, I find myself gravitating towards people who challenge and encourage me to be sharper in all areas of life.

Maybe you are like me, sick of being a B in all areas of life. Due to the time I spend working and my competitive nature, I will always continue to push for an A professionally. Anything less is not in my DNA. However, I want to be more intentional about increasing my grade personally. My goal is to be a leader worth following: personally and professionally. What about you?

Related links:!/andystanley

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