In a conversation about leaders, a colleague and I were discussing how those in power were influenced during their tenure, and how their behavior often seemed to change over time. Unfortunately, we had many examples of people who started out strong but faded after years into the job, but we only had one stark example of someone who remained consistently strong throughout.
In trying to dissect what caused that difference, we concluded that his identity was never wrapped up in being the organization’s leader. The power never went to his head so he wasn’t tainted by it. Often a company’s chief has that role as his or her key identity. S/He may travel, but never fully turn off the job. S/He may golf, but it is still as the CEO hobnobbing with others on the course. S/He could volunteer in the community, but in the context of their position more so than their passion.
Such was not the case with our outlier example. He embraced many different roles that he played in life. When he was in waders up to his knees in a stream, he was a fly fisherman extraordinaire with a whole circle of friends that had nothing to do with his organization or community. He was a foodie and a wine connoisseur for the personal thrill of it, not to impress. He cherished his role as a husband and father and happily conceded any pretense of power to the women in his family.
We talk a lot about work-life balance, but the core issue isn’t a time management one. The real prize is cultivating an identity and remaining centered around the parts of you that aren’t reflected on a business card.