As a student of leadership I find myself at times on a conflicting journey of self improvement. My eagerness to learn and develop myself stumbles into my enthusiasm to lead and develop others. My integrated approach to life and ministry defies a compartmentalized view of leadership. While I am open and receptive to sound leadership principles and coaching, I instinctively resist a pull towards a more "balanced" approach to life and leadership. In fact, I have developed a real aversion to even the word, let alone the idea of "balance." Why? Because balanced people don't change the world!
Consider the following biblical, historical and modern heroes of the faith:
The letter to the Hebrews outlines a list of extraordinary biblical leaders who were far from balanced - "Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. He left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible." (Hebrews 11)
St. Francis of Assisi abandoned a life of privilege adopting a life of voluntary poverty. He founded the Franciscan Order of "lesser brothers" who preached on the streets and ministered to the poor, expanding their mission throughout Italy and beyond.
John Wesley sustained an insane ministry schedule becoming an influential preacher, prolific writer, generous benefactor, supporter of the abolition of slavery, making a significant contribution to theology and the holiness movement, and sowing the seeds for modern Methodism.
William Wilberforce used his social and political influence to lobby parliament for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. He fought relentlessly for 20 years against repeated defeats before 'An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade' received royal assent.
William Booth pursued a uncompromising passion to reach the most disadvantaged in the east end of London, abandoning a lay preaching ministry with the Methodist church to advance an audacious vision for the salvation of the whole world through The Salvation Army.
Bill Hybels, when he received a vision of a prevailing church while in college, left his fathers business and together with a group of passionate like-minded Christ followers invested everything they had to build a church "to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ."
These heroes of the faith did not become influential leaders who literally changed the course of history by opting for a work-life balance. They were passionate, risk-taking, faith-driven leaders who had the audacity to believe in a God who could do extraordinary things through ordinary people. They were discontent with the status quo and possessed an unshakeable vision for a better future. They dared to believe in a God who could, even when they couldn't. They refused to settle for mediocrity and strove for excellence. They were driven by a Holy Spirit fervour that could not be quenched by a humanistic ideology.
Balance is a myth that anesthetizes passion, risk and faith in leaders. Balanced people are unlikely to leave the security of a well paid job, uproot their family and abandon all that is familiar for the uncertainty of a local or global mission. Balanced people don't change the world!
In her book "Chaotic Order" Major Danielle Strickland from Canada challenges this balance myth - “Exposing the balance myth is important for leaders in chaotic environments because it frees us from the restraint and constant fear that we are somehow losing ground by being passionately committed to people. Rejecting the balance myth is key to leading out of relationships that can feel chaotic. Being available, open, honest, transparent, real, and needy isn’t easy.”
Whether I live to 100 or die at 50, I don't want to waste a minute of my life giving anything less than the totality of my entire being to fulfilling God's calling. In the word's of the old chorus, "All my days and all my hours, all my will and all my powers, all the passion of my soul, not a fragment but the whole. Shall be thine, dear Lord."
Why? Because balanced people don't change the world!