Is leadership culture shifting?

Previous generations of executives devoted 14 hour days to their jobs, year-after-year. A belief in an unspoken “contract” between employers and executives ran rampant. Rewards would allegedly correlate with the number of hours clocked on the job. But as everyone raced for the gold professionally, personal lives disintegrated. Fractured marriages and missed graduations represent merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the price that employees paid for professional success.

In 2008, after the recession hit, this unspoken employee-employer contract collapsed. “Many hard-working executives lost their jobs despite the backbreaking work and time commitment they devoted to their companies.” As this unfolded, “Today’s young leaders watched their parents suffer emotional and financial losses, from which some never recovered”.

As a result, young leaders now wonder about whether or not their parents’ sacrifices were worth the while. “They don’t want to look back at their lives and repeat the same mistakes. As a result, many are no longer willing to pay the same price.” It may be the case that organizations choosing to embrace work-life balance will successfully hire the best talent on the market.

New world, new leadership

As younger leaders enter senior management roles, will a new type of leadership style emerge? A new executive-level culture is expected to encourage workers to fully participate in all aspects of their lives; professional and personal.

Contemporary business leaders see that it is possible to create a positive, work-hard-play-hard, compassionate culture. “As the ‘war for talent’ escalates, an empathetic, human-centered approach to employee relations will be key to attracting and retaining top talent,” says Chief Executive.

Culture shifts

Nonetheless, there’s still an uphill battle. “Typically, men haven’t been expected to take on the primary responsibilities of their immediate and extended families because of the demands of their executive roles. Unfairly, the same hasn’t been true for women – even those holding similar high paying jobs. They have been expected to manage their executive roles and handle the family responsibilities without missing a beat,” says Chief Executive.

At any level, making the time for meaningful personal interactions and events isn’t impossible, but the cost can feel exorbitant. Recent research indicates that emerging leaders tend to feel that they’re not achieving success in either sphere of their lives. “When you give everything to work, you feel guilty about your family; when you give it to your family, you feel guilty about work.”

The pandemic has brought certain truths into new focus. “If we have learned anything, it is that…companies that recognize this shift,” regarding a need to support work-life balance, “…will attract the best and the brightest”.

Achieving Balance

Other leaders contend that work-life balance is a lie. If balance can’t exist, what is the solution? As Amazon’s executive chairman and former CEO, Jeff Bezos, says “I prefer the word ‘harmony’ to the word ‘balance’ because balance tends to imply a strict tradeoff.” Bezos presents a novel perspective, but there are many ways to look at the idea of achieving work-life balance.

Is time management the answer? Being selective with how you choose to spend your time and your energy can eliminate distractions and help you achieve more across all areas of your life.

For more thought leadership insights pertaining to work-life balance, visit Chief Executive.