Harvard University

Leading From the Balcony to Manage Employees

So much has changed in the past few years. The best ways of running a sustainable business has also changed. Successfully managing change will be your competitive advantage. Every bookstore or library shelf has an abundant number of leadership from the theoretical to the practical and everything in between. Find a book on leadership shifting gears slightly about how to lead from a different perspective. This will help you immensely especially if you are thinking about moving your organization to be more efficient and effective, but not know where or how to start.

While not everyone is cut out to be a leader, not everyone can or wants to be a follower all the time, also. It is often the mix of the smartest, most effective and efficient way to build and sustain your business, team and productivity. Orchestrating your leadership and how your employees go about completing their day work, may need some

Leaders need to identify if a change they are introducing requires primarily technical expertise, or represents a deeper, adaptive challenge. The key to success is to correctly identify which type of challenge leaders are facing and then proceed to orchestrate the change based on whether the type of change they are facing is a technical or an adaptive challenge.

Ron Heifetz, professor at Harvard University and author of Leadership Without Easy Answers (1998), makes the point that leaders periodically need to get off the dance floor and get up on the balcony. By doing so, you can see the patterns and the flow of your employees working better than when they are right in front of you.

Heifetz believes that leaders need to regularly “get up in the balcony” and get a different perspective of everything that is going on. You also can see who is dancing well and who is struggling.

In their book, “Leadership on the Line”, authors Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky offer a practical solution of “getting off the dance floor (daily operations) and up in the balcony.

When growing or leading your business, it is important to regularly make the time to consider where you want to be and what is changing around you rather than always being bogged down in (with) the details. Applying the “getting off the dance floor” metaphor, spending less time dancing and more time looking down from the balcony at the dancers to assess whether there is better way to do things. On the Dance Floor, you can find yourself in action, consumed in the day to day running of your business. On the “Balcony”, you can take a step back from the details and take a clearer, more strategic view of what is going on in your business. Spending regular time in the Balcony is important for you to see what you need to do in order to grow or lead your business.

Return to the dance if you want to affect what is happening. Staying on the balcony for short periods of time to give you a different perspective is great.

Position your people to be able to provide feedback, opinions and suggestions without fear of intimidation or being ignored. Provide regular opportunities to hear what they are thinking, feeling, and how they respond to current trends and issues affecting their work.

Many leaders modify their behaviors according to their responses from their employees. A masterful leader understands that their leadership is a work in progress and that their ability to manage and lead depends on many factors and situations. Continuous monitoring and confirming with observations and feelings of others is a good barometer for leaders.

Leaders that develop and practice emotional intelligence seek feedback when it comes to behaviors and attitudes may find they actually get it if they are responsive to improvement(s).

The notion that leadership means “I know where we are going just follow me”; or “I’ll bring in the best experts and then follow me” is clearly inappropriate to adaptive contexts and puts enormous pressure on people in authority to fake it and provide quick technical fixes that tend to avoid the more significant questions.

Taking a balcony perspective is difficult especially when you have been leading from down below. When you break away, step back and you will see the big picture. Sometimes it is complicated by several factors.

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