Are You Leading From the Balcony, the Stage or the Seats?

Are You Leading From the Balcony, the Stage or the Seats?

Are you leading from the balcony, the stage or the seats?

It is confession time. It has been over one month since I have communicated with you. Truthfully, it is because I wasn’t sure how to. Who am I to be reaching out during this unsettling and uncertain time while you are grappling with keeping your business alive and flourishing.

The answer came as I dove deeply into how successful leaders lead during times of challenge, uncertainty and crisis. Clearly, there is no one right way to lead…period.   The literature points to particular types and certain styles for different times but that is short sighted. Being a well-rounded leader makes sense for right now, and for always. But how do you ‘do’ well-rounded?

The concept of ‘leading from the balcony’ originated in a 2001 HBR article entitled the Work of Leadership. What shocked me was how relevant it is to our present VUCA time of volatility, unrest, uncertainty, constant change, complexity and ambiguity. Yes, I did add a few descriptors to VUCA in order to fully represent what you as leaders are facing personally and professionally in 2020. The article could have been written today just as easily as in 2001. It referred to your work as a leader and your need to be able to respond appropriately to adaptive challenges. The adaptive challenges are “changes in societies, markets, customers, competition, and technology around the globe that are forcing organizations to clarify their values, develop new strategies, and learn new ways of operating”. Doesn’t that sound like a passage right out of today’s news?

So how do you lead successfully when the world is figuratively and literally tumbling all around you?

You lead from the balcony, the stage and the seats. There is no better time, than right now, to lead from all three. That is how you do well-rounded. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Leading from the balcony involves imagining and planning the future even when the present is unsettled and uncertain. Creating, and nurturing a vision for your people that they can hold on to that gives them hope for a better tomorrow. The ability to see the path to continued business growth and expansion even through the daily chaos and disruption. Being the beacon, the light that keeps everyone focused and pointed towards the possibility, towards the future. Your ability to show up as that visionary leader is what people want and frankly need right now. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It is when you are leading from the balcony that you fulfill this need for your people. Now more than ever helping your employees to truly understand the connection between the reasons you are in business, the clients you serve and how they make it all happen… is crucial.

Leading from the stage is where you build the momentum and inspire and involve people towards that bigger future. It is about harnessing their collective energy and experience. Here you build alignment, create unity and foster company loyalty through your voice, and your passion for what could be. It is listening to the collective voice of your employees and knowing deep down that it is their wisdom, experience and talent that will move you forward.

Leading from the seats is about being in the details. There is no better source of information than your employees who have the hands on experience. Your role in leading from the seats is to be curious and ask questions, listen to the answers and move forward fully informed. Many leaders know this but still decide not to do it. They delegate the responsibility to those below them. Your attention to details is essential all the time in your business. Who should be paying attention to those details, right now, is you.

As you lead the transition to whatever your organization’s next level of being will be, all three perspectives will be needed. Your ability to tolerate the current uncertainty, frustration, and pain and yet still guide and help move your company towards a brighter future is imperative. Use the balcony, the stage and the seats to support you.

Want to get a better idea of how you compare to others who excel at leading from the balcony (creating a vision), the stage (building alignment) and the seats (executing the details)? Reach out to me to experience Everything DiSC Work of Leaders assessment. It will provide the context, the research and the specific steps to help you to succeed at leading from all three.

Always giving you my best,


Schedule a complimentary consultation to see which program is right for your organization.