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The Leader’s Balancing Act

The Leader’s Balancing Act

Want to be an effective leader?  You’ve got to be disciplined, organized, and focused.

But you’ve also got to be inspiring, creative, and visionary.

A couple weeks ago in this space, Steve discussed the leader’s balancing act — between support and challenge.  Here’s another such balancing act:  between the pragmatic and the visionary.

I think of it like a composer of music.  As visionaries, composers must hear the music in their head — they must have a sound picture of how their composition will begin, build, and ultimately end. They must feel all the emotions the music will generate, and know how to communicate those emotions to others.

But ultimately the composer must sit down with staff paper (or at a computer screen) and draw thousands of dots, lines, and symbols to turn their visions into the “directions” the musicians follow to convert the vision into reality.

No one can know how to perform to your vision unless you have the discipline to get your music down on the staff.

The score of a Beethoven Symphony is an extremely detailed set of instructions. Only with this score — which “manages” the actions of the orchestra, can we hear the music that was in Beethoven’s mind. What’s amazing to me is not only that Beethoven conceived music of such incredible richness and beauty, but that he was able to sit down with pen and ink and capture this inspiration on paper.

It’s hard, this balance.  These are two very disparate sets of skills.  Most of us are predisposed to be either the pragmatic or the visionary — the leader or the manager.  But as a leader, it’s not enough just to hear the music in your head — you’ve got to be enough of a manager to get the music down on paper in clear and effective ways.  Maybe the difficulty of this balancing act is the reason we don’t have more effective business leaders.

So, leaders — do the details well. No one else can know how to perform to your vision unless you have the discipline to get your music down on the staff.

YOUR PATH FORWARD: In one-on-one meetings with your staff and your supervisor this week, take three minutes to request their honest feedback on how well you attend to the details, and on what you could do to improve your processes for getting the dots and lines down on the staff effectively enough for others to make beautiful music.

About the Author

Jim Hessler
Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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