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Leader is what leader does….

, October 19, 2012, 0 Comments

Last week, we spoke about leadership as a process of influencing and understanding followers to work together to achieve objectives. This week we ask the question “How do I practice leadership to support my team in general and the ‘work life balance’ issue in particular?”I start with a story from personal work experience in Australia…Not only is the culture informal and egalitarian but also emphasizes work life balance.“Call me John* not Mr. Smith*, the department head told me on my first day of work in corporate communications with a property group in Sydney. Years ago, when I first joined the corporate world here, I had to unlearn a few things that I had learned as part of my corporate life in Mumbai. Here for instance, the general norm is to call your peers, leaders and even the CEO by first name and that I could leave office before my boss left work. I liked this culture.There were other things, like – it was not accepted practice to call your colleague to discuss office related stuff after work and definitely not on the weekends. Having Saturdays and Sundays off is a given across all companies barring a few sectors like retail or hospitals where workers get ‘time off in lieu’ or are paid penalty rates (slightly more than weekdays) for working over the weekend and/or holiday. Having come from a hectic work life in Mumbai, this work style sometimes felt slow and boring.  I realized that I actually had time to indulge in leisure activities; I had a ’life’ outside of work. A few months later I came to appreciate this work life balance.Comparing work life balance in Australia with that in India is difficult. There are many reasons for the slow take up for work life balance initiatives in India, ranging from population, law, politics, culture and competition. However, it is important to note that things are changing and here is an interesting article that helps better understand, that work life balance is improving in India.While waiting for company policies, the law and culture to change, a leader can begin to push for work life balance. Question – How?Answer – By setting an exampleKouzes and Posner (2007)[i] chalk out five practices of exemplary leadership which should be practiced by leaders who wish to take their employees on a journey to achieving business objectives and their desires/career aspirations.

  1. Model the way
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Challenge the process
  4. Enable others to act
  5. Encourage the heart

Modeling the way or setting an example would help steer team members towards similar behavior. Here are some examples:

If you as a leader started leaving office at a reasonable time, your team members would follow suit. Longer work hours contribute to increased stress levels not necessarily productivity (who can be productive after eight long hours of work anyway!)

Stop making or receiving phone calls related to work on the weekend.

Show employees that family time and your personal time is important (after all what or who are you working so hard for?).

 When you adopt and live the first practice, the other four will soon fall into place.

‘Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing’-Albert Schweitzer

The concept of ‘face time’ or being physically present in an office can and should be questioned.

Is it really needed or can the work be done remotely? Some job profiles and/or situations warrant physical presence and face-to-face conversations.

So, if all your team members are not required to be in the office, allow those team members to work from home.

Allowing a team member to work from home can make a difference to his/her physical well being, mental health, employee retention, employee engagement and takes you further to becoming a great leader.

[i]Kouzes, J. M. and B. Z. Posner (2007). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
* Names changed