In The Well-Balanced Leader, Ron Roberts helps leaders manage their behaviors in order to achieve “Egolibrium,” the perfect leadership balance. He identifies nine behavioral “faces” that greatly impact leadership quality, and uses various action steps, games, and thought exercises to guide leaders in finding the best behaviors to fit their needs. The Well-Balanced Leader teaches leaders of all types how to transcend their personal needs to focus on the needs of others in order to benefit their organizations, create greater job satisfaction, and generate greater productivity. Roberts provides many ways for leaders to implement small, incremental, and successful changes in their behaviors that can lead to improvements in effectiveness, awareness, and becoming a well-balanced leader.
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WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE ANYWAY, YOU OR YOUR EGO?
Many leaders today act and make decisions in an ego-driven manner. They focus on their own needs rather than the needs of others, use manipulation and criticism to get what they want, and are often unconscious of their actions. Sometimes they are told to change, but even when their careers are at stake, many find it difficult to implement modifications in their behaviors. Ego-driven leaders often find themselves in never-ending loops of behaviors and processes that keep them and their subordinates stuck in failed situations. Ego-driven leaders usually exhibit ten common tendencies:
- Continuously self-inflating.
- Being absorbed with their own needs and self-importance.
- Working to gain unlimited power and control.
- Proving their amazing, unquestionable, and natural intelligence.
- Demonstrating their own self-reliance.
- Searching for absolute security and certainty.
- Avoiding pain and discomfort, and seeking only positive results.
- Accumulating a maximum of material things.
- Seeking perpetual personal affirmation.
- Unrealistically comparing themselves to others.
Roberts suggests that if leaders can recognize these attributes in themselves and practice the art of Egolibrium, they will begin to admit their flaws and make significant changes. Egolibrium helps leaders disengage from the disabling power of the ego in a systematic manner that empowers them through three main strengths:
1. Other-Centric Perspectives: Thinking of others more often than themselves, and having a clear perspective of their own importance in the larger scheme of things.
2. Conscious Awareness: Striving to become more conscious of what motivates them and what determines how they relate to others.
3. Balance: Thinking about the entire repertoire of responses available in any situation and being free to act on them as necessary. Also, avoiding going to extremes and thinking before acting or speaking.
Egolibrium is based on the choices leaders make on a daily basis and their cumulative effect on people, processes, and organizations as a whole. These choices either reinforce their own egos and weaken others, or empower their subordinates and strengthen their organizations. This is called being an “Other-Centric Leader.” Other-Centric leaders are those who are aware of long-term consequences, strive for balance, listen to others, and try to influence others through positive actions.
Leaders can implement Egolibrium by:
- Filling out an Egolibrium assessment to determine where they are on the Egolibrium continuum.
- Scoring the answers.
- Choosing the greatest strength and greatest area for growth.
- Designating ideal objectives and long-term goals.
- Practicing the experimental exercises offered throughout the book.
FACE 1: NONJUDGMENTAL VERSUS JUDGMENTAL
Many leaders make snap judgments without having confirmed facts. These judgments stem from emotions and personal beliefs, and often discount the reactions of other people. Roberts proposes that truly great leaders should not operate this way. Instead, they should consistently work on becoming nonjudgmental in order to increase their consciousness, openness, awareness, and decision making.
Traditional leaders attempt to control situations, people, and processes, and use judgment or criticism to drive benchmarks and productivity. This type of leadership style destroys trust, disrupts interpersonal relationships, lowers the leader’s image, and prevents him or her from seeing clearly. This judgmental nature is innate to humans and is a natural way to manage organizations. However, leaders can change their judgmental natures by becoming emotionally detached from situations and observing them objectively. They must focus on consciously weighing their reactions and becoming aware of their internal motivations, such as feelings of insecurity, inferiority, inadequacy, fear, anger, and anxiety. By being in touch with these feelings, leaders can be set free from their unconscious influence on behaviors and reactions.
When leaders are accepting and nonjudgmental, it enhances organizational alignment and allows followers to focus their resources on external competition rather than internal competition. This nonjudgmental leadership creates a company culture of acceptance that leads to motivated and fulfilled staff members who consistently achieve their goals and objectives.
FACE 2: NONDEFENSIVE VERSUS DEFENSIVE
Defensive behavior in a leader can cause animosity and distrust. When leaders are defensive, they allow their egos to maintain balance and cope with others in the face of a perceived threat. Defensiveness is a mechanism used to block and mask reactions to stress; it cannot make situations or feelings go away. Leaders must learn how to accept reality, put the needs of others first, and non-defensively work toward changing problematic situations.
For many leaders, it is difficult to change their defensive ways. Even if they do not want to, they are always looking out for attacks, responding to situations emotionally, and anticipating conflict and abuse. This type of thinking and behavior leads to organizational suffering as a whole. Staff motivation, process management, and general performance are the three areas that most suffer from defensive behavior.
In order to gain control over defensiveness, leaders must accept their behaviors, move beyond their feelings, and learn to trust others. When conflicts arise, they should practice listening without preparing a response. When responding, they should only address the core positive messages that both parties are trying to convey. There are four steps leaders can follow to conquer defensiveness:
1. Take time out or get away: Change the environment, calm down, and try to slow physical and emotional reactions.
2. Zoom out: Change perspective and try to listen to the true meaning of what others are saying.
3. Detach: Listen to others when they discuss their feelings, but do not act on them. Relax and use logic and objective thinking to deal with issues.
4. Persist: Keep on trying, release defensive feelings, and move forward.
By communicating honestly and openly, leaders can reduce the likelihood of future defensive episodes. By owning their own feelings and avoiding projecting onto others, they will behave more proactively and less defensively.
FACE 3: RELINQUISHING CONTROL VERSUS CONTROLLING
Many company CEOs, leaders, and managers are over-controlling; they micromanage others, impose their own will, manipulate external events, and make everything happen their own way. To be a truly great leader, people must understand how to balance the relationships between themselves and their subordinates. Great leaders know when to exercise control and when to relinquish it. There is a six-part method leaders can implement to gain the proper amount of control over staff, situations, and processes:
- Create a baseline by measuring and assessing the current situation.
- Set goals and objectives to achieve a desired result.
- Make detailed plans for how to achieve the desired result.
- Make adjustments in various strategies and tactics.
- Get and give feedback at various intervals.
- Set benchmarks for knowing when goals are achieved.
By using these six steps, leaders can begin to maintain order and productivity in the midst of change and chaos. Leaders need to calmly face the challenges of an ever-changing and competitive business world. Leaders cannot control what happens to them or what new challenges the market will throw at their organizations, but they can control how they react to this stress. In stressful situations, leaders must remember these five tips for gaining quick control:
- Change the situation by leaving the meeting, taking a breaking, using vacation time, or possibly transferring or changing jobs.
- Change the stimuli by creating key words and signals to assist in performance, and anticipating and removing distractions before the start of a project.
- Change the frame of reference by interchanging attitudes and concepts.
- Change the reaction by becoming a neutral and detached observer.
- Practice the knowledge of insecurity and wisdom of uncertainty by delaying reactions until all the information is gathered and presented.
Great leaders must learn to recognize their parts in the interdependent systems of their organizations, that their decisions and actions have a system-wide impact, and that they must relinquish control at the right times in order to inspire others and achieve organizational goals. When they can do this effectively, they will find that strategic planning and execution is greatly enhanced, change management is easier, and decision making is improved.
FACE 4: OPEN TO LEARNING VERSUS KNOW-IT-ALL
Leaders must often make decisions with insufficient information. In order to avoid disaster, both leaders and employees must be open to sharing information with others and willing to admit when they do not know something or when they make a mistake. This twofold plan will enable the entire organization to be open to learning, and thus more likely to be successful in the long term.
Roberts suggests a simple four-step process to help leaders become more open to learning:
1. Be a neutral observer: Be honest about the current situation and observe new decisions, choices, and informational input related to planning and execution.
2. Assimilate and understand: Look at information from every angle and use that awareness and discomfort as motivation to change.
3. Analyze and gain perspective: Detach from emotions and think about the impact or possibilities the new knowledge will have on current and future situations.
4. Decide when to be proactive and how to react: Take small steps to methodically implement the process of incremental change.
It is important for both leaders and employees to resist judging themselves or becoming defensive as they learn how to open up to learning. They should repeat the four-step plan as many times as necessary to manage this new onslaught of awareness and knowledge.
The failure to learn is almost always driven by feelings of insecurity, fear, and rigidity, but great leaders learn how to push past these emotions and open themselves up to learning. In particular, great leaders learn how to toggle between task and process-driven thinking in order to be more conscious of what they need to do to achieve results. As they do this, they will become more comfortable with making mistakes and learning valuable lessons from these failures.
In order for leaders to impart the knowledge they are assimilating, they must communicate it effectively using four different methods:
- Communicating information horizontally with colleagues on the same level of authority.
- Communicating vertically with senior staff members and staff at the lower levels.
- Driving information, communication, and authority down the chain of communication.
- Sharing important knowledge and key information with others both horizontally and vertically.
Once becoming open to learning themselves, great leaders release knowledge and information to help both their employees and organization as a whole become empowered and successful.
FACE 5: DOING THE RIGHT THING VERSUS DOING WHATEVER YOU WANT
Powerful people do not usually receive honest, consistent feedback. This type of situation, where leaders have vague boundaries, high pressure, and a self-defined perception of reality, makes temptation almost irresistible.
Great leaders, however, rise above these temptations, set principles for themselves, and choose to do the right thing consistently. In a time where there are few moral absolutes, great leaders focus on the five universal principles of moral behavior:
1. Ethics and fairness: Determining if actions are fair, moral, and legal, and what the consequences of the actions would be.
2. Willpower: Using willpower to make hard decisions for the good of the team.
3. Humility and conscious awareness: Having the humility to see one’s self in perspective, as part of a greater whole.
4. Logical thinking and detachment: Detaching from external stress and emotional reactions to think things through logically.
5. Delayed gratification: Delaying one’s own needs temporarily in order to help others.
This type of moral behavior in a leadership position requires accountability, putting aside feelings of entitlement, admission of mistakes, and becoming more Other-Centric in decision making, boundaries, and honesty. When leaders become great leaders by consistently doing the right thing, they will see raised morale in their employees, increased profits, and long-term sustainability for their organizations.
FACE 6: PATIENT VERSUS IMPATIENT
Impatient leaders are those who believe they are so powerful that they can control everything. Oftentimes, they push their employees too hard, over-schedule projects, and cause anxiety and process breakdown. Patient leaders, however, achieve success in phases. They see the greater picture and follow long-term strategic plans.
Roberts defines patience as the ability to endure and remain calm even under the most difficult circumstances. Patient leaders must persevere in the midst of stress without acting or reacting in a negative way. However, this is difficult today since many leaders are required to do more, with fewer resources, in a shorter amount of time.
Multitasking is the new standard, and leaders are expected to push the limits of doing several things at once. However, studies show that multitasking is actually impossible. The brain can only think of one thought at a time, and a person can only do one task at a time. Great leaders must keep this in mind as they learn to balance time, control, and the following eight guidelines to prevent impatience:
- Organize ahead of time.
- Allow extra time to complete tasks.
- Have contingency plans for every possibility.
- Think realistically about the consequences of actions.
- Think and work in both small and large chunks.
- Think in both time and event orientations.
- Adjust attitude and reframe thinking when situations go awry.
- Substitute other tasks when faced with delays.
When leaders learn to be patient, they can lead their staff toward the same healthy habit. This will help them achieve greater success on both a personal level and an organizational level.
FACE 7: LETTING GO VERSUS HOLDING ON
Leaders who hold onto attitudes, values, and beliefs can experience clouded perceptions of reality, as well as negative effects on their decision-making abilities and the performance of their organizations. Great leaders must learn how to let go of goals and beliefs when necessary, face reality, and trust those around them to do what needs to be done.
Letting go of things allows people to grow. According to Roberts, leaders must deal with their employees in the present moment instead of clinging to old methods. They can do this by participating in new management styles, giving freedom to employees, and engaging them in organizational business. This can be a difficult process, and it takes time to master. Leaders must be patient and practice the four steps to letting go:
1. Take it one step at a time: Shoot for small steps and small successes.
2. Take it one minute at a time: Try to let go of a small portion of the issue, just for a minute.
3. Realize that it is alright to be temporarily powerless: Whether it is a specific situation, business deal, process, or system-wide dilemma, try to state the issue of powerlessness out loud and accept it.
4. Forgive and forget: Move past offenses by showing compassion, extending forgiveness, and trying to erase the event from memory.
When leaders can learn to let go, they can then help their co-workers and subordinates do the same, creating good organizational communication, productive work flow, and flexible systems.
FACE 8: ACCEPTANCE VERSUS RESISTANCE
When leaders can learn to let go, they can more effectively accept reality. Roberts defines acceptance as an agreement to experience a situation, follow a process, or acknowledge a loss without attempting to change, protest, or escape from it. Acceptance allows leaders to plan for the future without losing sight of the present or being overly attached to outcomes.
People often resist experiences they perceive as threatening, frightening, or difficult. Resistant behaviors allow people to avoid the uncomfortable feelings these negative occurrences produce. There are many reasons why organizations and individuals prosper from acceptance, including facing the reality of business situations and effectively dealing with problems and issues. There are six main phases of mastering acceptance.
1. Anticipation: Waiting and anticipating a changed future without being able to take action.
2. Managing Psychological Resistance: Managing the natural resistance to the uncomfortable feelings associated with the change after it occurs.
3. Confrontation: Facing reality and realizing that change is either going to happen, or is already happening.
4. Conscious Realization: Consciously understanding the new reality.
5. Acceptance: Accepting the change emotionally.
6. Realignment with the New Normal: Integrating the change and including new processes in strategic and tactical planning.
Leaders can utilize the Egolibrium thought process to gently blend their internal realities with the external realities of their businesses to gain greater personal acceptance, and to build trust, momentum, and sustained changes.
FACE 9: OTHER-CENTRIC VERSUS EGO-CENTRIC
All great leaders are Other-Centric, meaning that they put their employees and organizations first, base their decisions on reality, see the whole picture, and listen to different points of view. Self-absorbed (or Ego-Centric) leaders are often absorbed in their own egos, interpret events based on their own wishes and fears, operate in isolation, and treat their co-workers and employees with anger, resentment, and bitterness. What Ego-Centric leaders fail to realize is that even their smallest actions have profound effects on their subordinates and organizations.
Leaders can become Other-Centric by mastering communication. Even small miscommunications can negatively impact an organization, so leaders should focus on being honest, tactful, and clear by perfecting the technique of active listening. They must also overcome their sense of entitlement, align values within their organizations, and respect and appreciate others through both words and actions. All these things work together to create continual growth and long-term success.