Can You Balance Results and Relationships?

The cheeky weather on Saturday the 25th of May this year gave a chilly start to the Africa Day celebrations in most parts of Zimbabwe. Huddling in balls of fleecy clothing, the hustling in Harare was punctuated with a deafening silence in many neighbourhoods due to the prolonged hours of power outages from the on-going massive load shedding schedules. I had to keep vehemently fighting off the overwhelming thoughts of how and why Africa had to be burdened with the descriptive of being the dark continent. Realising that I could easily fall into an early morning depression, I boldly got up and made a decision to walk around making prophetic declarations over the nation of Zimbabwe and the African continent. I silently prayed that power would be restored early so that I could get an opportunity to watch whatever was remaining of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech as he took the oath of office at his inauguration as South African president.

Reflections on balanced leadership

As soon as the power was restored after lunch, I scrambled through the many different news channels in order to catch up with what was happening on the African continent as her sons and daughters celebrated Africa Day. My remote-control escapades were arrested by South African leadership expert Dr Mazwe Majola’s comments on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration speech. In his interview on one of the news channels he shared his sentiments on the task at hand and the need for balanced leadership. As the news channel religiously played the key highlight of the speech, “I will be a president for all South Africans,” I deeply reflected on the depth and density of these words. How does a leader effectively balance results and relationships in order to leave a memorable legacy at the end of their term of office?

What’s wrong with being out of balance?

As a child, riding a seesaw was fun, wasn’t it? Well, except when you didn’t have equal weight on both sides—then it was just out of balance and someone got stuck in mid-air. That bears the question—is your leadership out of balance? Most likely it is because statistically, more than 85% of the population tilts toward being strong at either Results or Relationships and weak at the other. What’s wrong with being out of balance? The idea of balancing results and relationships is nothing new, but if we assume that character is the foundation of leadership, then there should be an inner motivation to accomplish the mission (get results) and take care of the people (build relationships). If you don’t get results, you can’t be truly successful in your work or justify your purpose and if you don’t take care of your people, some will quit and leave and some will quit and stay. In either case, it’s not a viable situation. So, in the long run, balancing a concern for people with accomplishing the mission is crucial to success.

The results-oriented manager focuses on efficiency, deadlines and budgets. The relationship-oriented manager focuses on people, and whether they’re happy and fulfilled in their work. Managing too strongly to either side of the equation can decrease initiative, drive, creativity and, ultimately, productivity. It also leads to distrust. The conundrum for all managers is in learning how to shape your natural leadership style to match the needs of your team. If you focus solely on results, your people will feel you don’t care about them, only about the bottom line. At the other extreme, focusing only on relationships leaves results-focused employees frustrated and demoralized.

What’s Wrong with Being Out of Balance?

Abraham Lincoln has been repeatedly voted as America’s most popular president, probably because he achieved great results in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances. But, how did he do it? When I posed this question to hundreds of corporate managers when facilitating leadership development, overall attributes fell into four areas of leadership—trust, relationships, results, and emotional intelligence.

The best leaders exhibit all of these qualities; however, behaviours regarding “results” and “relationships” were mentioned more than all the others. In fact, more than 85% of the population tilts toward one or the other.

The idea of balancing results and relationships is nothing new; but, if we assume that character is the foundation of leadership, there should be an inner motivation to balance accomplishing the mission (get results) and taking care of the people (build relationships). By themselves, neither one is viable.

How Do You Gain a Better Balance?

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