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Beyond the Myth of the All-Consuming Work Style: The Path to Work-Life Balance for Leaders

The mantra of many successful leaders has long been that intense and all-consuming work styles are the only way to reach the top and achieve success. However, a growing group of executives is challenging this notion and finding innovative ways to balance work, family, and life. Over the past 20 years, this group has been meeting and sharing their ideas for cultivating skills that allow them to prioritize work-life balance without sacrificing their professional goals.

Today we will explore the three key relationships that these leaders have found essential in achieving balance and the stories of three leaders who exemplify this approach.

Why Leaders Need to Prioritize Their Own Well-Being

It is essential for leaders to prioritize their own well-being in order to effectively lead their organizations. When leaders prioritize their own well-being, they are better able to maintain their physical, mental, and emotional health, which in turn enables them to perform at their best and lead their organizations to success.

Leaders who prioritize their own well-being set a positive example for their employees, demonstrating that taking care of oneself is important and acceptable. This helps to create a culture where employees feel empowered to prioritize their own well-being, leading to increased job satisfaction, productivity, and employee retention.

Furthermore, when leaders prioritize their own well-being, they are better able to lead by example. They are more focused, present, and able to connect with their employees on a deeper level, which enables them to inspire and motivate their teams more effectively. This leads to a more positive and productive work environment, where employees feel valued and supported.

Prioritizing one's own well-being is not a luxury, but a necessity for effective leadership. By taking care of themselves, leaders are better able to take care of their organizations and lead their employees to success.

Relationship with Teams at Work

One of the most significant obstacles to work-life balance for leaders is the pressure to be constantly available and responsive to the needs of their teams. However, the executives in this group have found that by working differently with their teams, they can not only reduce their workload but also increase productivity and job satisfaction.

One such leader is Sarah, a CEO of a technology startup. Sarah realized that she was setting a poor example for her team by constantly working long hours and being available 24/7. She decided to implement a "no email Fridays" policy and encouraged her team to take breaks and prioritize their personal time. By doing so, she found that her team was more productive and motivated, and she was able to spend more time with her family.

Relationship with Family

Another critical relationship that leaders must cultivate is with their families. It can be challenging to put family first when work demands are high, but these executives have found that making a plan with their families is essential to achieving balance.

John, a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company, made a plan with his wife to set aside dedicated time for family activities, such as dinner together and weekend outings. He also established a "no work Sundays" rule, which allowed him to recharge and spend quality time with his family. By prioritizing his family in this way, John found that he was able to be more present and engaged in both his personal and professional life.

Relationship with Oneself

The third and perhaps most critical relationship that leaders must cultivate is with themselves. It is all too easy to become consumed by work and neglect one's own needs and well-being. However, these executives have found that shifting their mindset and giving themselves permission to prioritize their own needs is essential to achieving balance.

Maria, a founder of a successful startup, found that she was constantly putting her own needs last. She decided to take a step back and prioritize her own well-being by practicing meditation and taking time for self-reflection. By doing so, Maria found that she was able to be more present and focused in her work, and she was able to make better decisions that benefited both her company and her personal life.


The stories of these leaders show that it is possible to achieve work-life balance without sacrificing professional success. By cultivating skills in three key relationships - with their teams at work, their families, and themselves - leaders can create a more sustainable and fulfilling approach to work and life. It takes courage and commitment to challenge the status quo and prioritize balance, but the results are well worth it. As Sarah, John, and Maria demonstrate, it is possible to be successful leaders who also have fulfilling personal lives. It is possible to break free from the myth of the all-consuming work style and find a better way. By following their example and cultivating skills in these three key relationships, leaders can achieve a more balanced and sustainable approach to work and life that benefits everyone involved.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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