The Balance of Leadership
William E. Rapp

The foundation or baseline for all senior leaders must be integrity and vision. Integrity is non-negotiable. Telling the truth, choosing the harder right over the easier wrong, and enforcing ethical behavior in organizations is vital in a world in which competitors may not hold to the same standards of conduct. We must not tread the path of expediency and situational ethics and by doing so follow our competition into the moral and legal morass. Integrity allows for the building of trust.  Trust allows for the building of teams.  Teams are those smallest elements that accomplish tasks and move an organization forward.  But those teams must be given direction.  Therefore, the other baseline for all leaders, regardless of seniority, is vision. It provides direction to an organization- a pathway to a desired destination.  Teams and organizations are constantly moving in some direction- forward, backward, or just drifting with the winds. Leaders must provide that vision of excellence so that their organizations move in constructive directions. Leaders of integrity able to provide a vision for their units, regardless of size, are baseline requirements for success. Quality leadership, as expressed in the following attribute pairs, will enable your team, company, or organization to continue to be the best in its field. 

Leadership can be viewed as a set of paired attributes built on this firm foundation of integrity; some complementary and some which on the surface appear to contradict each other. Success, in my opinion, comes from attaining overall balance in these attributes. Competence and conduct; work ethic and personal balance; aggressiveness and collegiality; initiative and proactivity; leading subordinates and building teams; and finally, can-do attitude and risk management. All are important. Weak areas result in suboptimal personal and unit performance.

Success in the 21st Century requires leaders be adaptive, professional, ethical, and able to build winning teams. Integrity and vision are baseline requirements for all leaders- they are the foundation of any successful organization.  Leaders must also provide direction and meaning for our subordinates so that they understand the pathways and goals of the organization. I firmly believe that leaders get the job done and prepare their units for success in business or government when they: 

  • Are competent and demonstrate outstanding personal conduct 
  • Work hard but retain a sense of life balance 
  • Are aggressive and at the same time collegial 
  • Demonstrative both initiative and proactivity 
  • Develop subordinates and build winning teams 
  • Have a can-do attitude and manage, not avoid, risk