~by Mekel Harris~
Serving as a leader within this fast-paced society requires the contemporary “leadership girl” to be able to wear many professional “heels,” if you will, while at the same time, master the art of balance. Balance … a word that has become more commonplace in recent years, yet still remains elusive to many fearless leaders. How is it possible, you might ask, to wholeheartedly focus one’s energy on wearing the array of heels in your closet (leading, that is) AND manage other personal and professional responsibilities without tripping over oneself?
You may be surprised that the answer to this question lies within a simple strategy for organizing one’s clothing closet. That’s right … the clothing closet! As you reflect upon the last time you completed this chore, think about your approach. You likely entered your closet and surveyed the array of clothes hanging on racks, as well as the shoes stacked upon the shelves. Next, you probably gathered a few seemingly unappealing items and placed them on your bed for further inspection. If you are like me, you then spent some time wrestling with whether you actually still liked the items; and, you may have also tried the items on to confirm your decision to keep or part ways with them. Upon trying different items on, you likely made some interesting discoveries. For example, you notice that your old “favorite pair of slacks” now fit more like culottes due to repeated trips through the washer-and-dryer cycle. Your “go to” heels, once a main staple in your wardrobe, now have worn soles and fit less comfortably on your feet. Finally, your “power suit” no longer lifts your spirits, but drains your energy, as you are forced to constantly tug at its “form fitting” seams due to unrealized weight gain on your part. And, the list goes on and on! The bottom line is that what once fit you or your lifestyle no longer fits.
As a leader, you must also regularly evaluate whether what you have in your professional “closet” still fits who and where you are today. Perhaps you have entered your closet and notice a stack of unfinished papers or scribbled notes with ideas that once sparked your interest. Or, perhaps you have noticed a box filled with business cards, riddled with names and numbers of individuals who you never followed up with. You should congratulate yourself for taking the first step towards achieving balance! I encourage you to take the next steps of courage …
- Place your discoveries on your professional “bed”
- Take some time to “try on” each discovery
- Observe each discovery’s appeal, feel its texture, and evaluate its comfort … basically, see if it still fits!
The best outcome of mindfully engaging in each step of this process is discovering that what you once identified as an interest may no longer align with your present skills, pursuits or passions.
Now, you may be wondering what to do as a final step in obtaining professional balance. Let’s return to our clothing closet for a moment. After determining what will “stay” and what will “go,” you would probably contact a local charity to donate your gently used, but unwanted items. The same principle applies to balance within leadership! Select what best fits who, as well as where, you are today. Place whatever you deem appropriate back in your professional “closet,” and donate the rest. I have learned that one of the best approaches to leadership is “paying it forward”! While untapped business contacts and ideas previously cluttered your professional space, another leader may be able to benefit from your “unwanted goods”!
Being a leadership girl is not easy, but there are ways to lighten the load and achieve a healthy balance. My experience with cleaning out my own professional “closet” is that after doing so, I feel lighter, more free, and clearer in my thinking! Further, I feel much more confident wearing my heels, knowing not only that I will not fall over myself, but also that my professional stride will look that much better! Onward and upward, courageous leaders… balance is, in fact, possible!
Meet the Author: Mekel Harris
Mekel Harris, Ph.D., NCSP is an Associate Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology – Los Angeles and a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles, CA, with expertise in health psychology. She has presented at over 25 national and international conferences throughout the past 5 years, targeting an array of health-related topics. As an avid proponent of wellness, Dr. Harris recognizes the importance of cultivating physical, emotional and spiritual balance in all areas of life and leadership.