In all my years of working with people, I have learned that one of the key features of an effective leader is the ability to be able to balance himself and those around him. Both challenge and support are essential parts of a whole and we usually lean towards one or the other but whenever we get just one or the other from ourselves or people around us we become more and more unbalanced. Both challenge and support have their positive and negative sides so let’s examine those and see how we can increase and maintain our balance in life and in turn affect those around us to also become more balanced individuals.
Challenges can be seen in many forms but in our personal relationships they are mainly a call to prove or justify something or they can dispute the truth or validity of something. Challenges are very much needed because we grow through challenges. If nobody ever challenges us in life we just continue to live inside our own head. We never think about how there are people out there who think and live differently than we do. And we never stop and think that also for us many different possibilities exist outside of our current ones. Without challenges, there is no possibility for change ever. And to live in a world without change and without growth would simply be unimaginable.
On the other hand, when we put too many challenges on ourselves or we receive too many challenges from our environment we can become tired, agitated, defensive and/or we start to run away from challenges and close ourselves from the world around us. Too many challenges or bigger challenges than we can currently face drain our energy reserves too fast. Our stress levels skyrocket and we become slower and slower at everything we do. No rest becomes long enough to recover and all our thought are focused on these challenges without any real solution in sight.
Support can also be seen in many forms but it is mostly shown by agreeing with someone or giving encouragement to someone because you want him or her to succeed. Supporting others in bad times is one of the best ways to show true leadership ability. And also supporting someone in good times can make them do things they would never imagine they are able to do.
But on the other hand, when we give too much support to someone they can become bored and eventually lose interest or they can become lazy and exclusively dependant on outside support. If we look at the example of parenting one of the worst type of parenting is when we give our children just support without any real challenges. Such a child grows up in a dream world without any connection or understanding of reality. When such an individual becomes an adult he will be completely unprepared for the real life and the challenges that await him. He won’t be able to function without a huge amount of support and will be completely crippled by even a tiny challenge.
We live our lives best and function at our best when we receive an equal measure of support and challenge from our environment and also give equal measure to ourselves and others. No matter what function we play or position we have in society: a father, mother, husband, wife, manager, politician, coach, teacher… we need to understand how and when to use support and challenge to balance ourselves and others around us. Only when we practice that on a daily basis and gain that understanding we can become an effective leader.