What Is Balanced Leadership?

Learn how to balance leadership and management skills to become a more effective leader.

Since its publication in 2015, the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win has reached millions of readers and listeners and changed the way they think about leadership. But the title can be misleading. Only when accepting responsibility should one be extreme. When it comes to everything else in leadership, rather than extreme, the best leaders must be balanced. Leadership is all about balance. What is balanced leadership? In this article, we are going to examine how to balance leadership and management. We will answer the question: how does balancing roles impact leadership?

When trying to be an effective leader at work, at home, or in any capacity, there are forces that will pull you in different directions. You must take action to solve problems, but you can’t be reckless and must mitigate the risks you can control. You have to be detached from the details so you can keep sight of the strategic priorities, but you can’t be so detached that you aren’t aware of what’s happening and can’t support your team. You have to be ready to step up and lead, but you must also be willing to follow. At Echelon Front, when we get asked, “What is balanced leadership?” we explain this concept through what we call “the Dichotomy of Leadership”. In all things, leaders must be balanced.

How To Balance Leadership And Management

But as leaders, we must also learn how to balance leadership and management. Leadership is the most important factor in whether or not a team succeeds or fails. Leadership is what brings together a diverse group of people with different skill sets and different agendas to work together, mutually supporting one another to accomplish a goal. But as leaders, there are also administrative functions that must be performed. Good leaders can’t neglect the management skills required to ensure their teams are properly compensated, documentation is in order, and the team has the resources they need to be successful. Sometimes leaders struggle to determine how to balance leadership and management skills. The reality is good leaders must become proficient in the management skills necessary for the success of their teams.

As a U.S. Navy SEAL platoon commander, I struggled with understanding what is balanced leadership. I wanted to focus on planning and leading combat operations on the battlefield. And yet, I also had to ensure we maintained proper serialized inventories of the expensive and sensitive weapons, ammunition, radios, night vision, and gear for which we were responsible.  I had to make sure that the platoon properly maintained that gear. Even while deployed to a combat zone, I had to write administrative evaluations for each of my SEALs to ensure their performance was documented and they would be eligible for promotion. For stand out performance, I had to make sure that the extensive paperwork required was properly completed for the U.S. military to approve awards that recognized their exceptional contributions. As a leader, I would have preferred to focus on just the leadership aspects of my job. But through this experience, I came to understand what is balanced leadership. Had I neglected my management skills, I would have failed my team and failed as a leader. This is the difficulty in examining how to balance leadership and management. You can’t neglect one over the other. You must find balance and become competent at both.

Some leaders are proficient in leadership but not in management. For others, it is the opposite. So how does balancing roles impact leadership? Good leaders are able to conduct an honest assessment of themselves and recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing what is balanced leadership, a good leader seeks support by teaming up with others who possess the skill sets where they are weak. In this way, they complement each other and still accomplish the mission. This also allows leaders to learn leadership or management skills from those who are more proficient in these areas. What is balanced leadership? Leaders who help each other and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses for the good of the team and the mission.


So, whenever you are feeling out of balance, remember that you must take action to maintain equilibrium so that you can be most effective as a leader. You have to be both a leader and a manager. To fail at either is to fail your mission and fail your team.  Instead of getting frustrated with the paperwork or the administrative duties required of you, seek help from those who are competent in those skills and work to improve. That is the power of Extreme Ownership. And this enables you to implement a solution to the problem that will get that problem solved.

When you take ownership and implement solutions, you will become better and more proficient in any skill set and be able to execute more effectively.

Knowledge means nothing if you don’t take action to improve your leadership skills. Knowing how to balance leadership and management doesn’t help you if you don’t work to improve your skills. Understanding what is balanced leadership doesn’t help you if you don’t take action. You can’t become a great leader just by reading an article, or sitting through a workshop, or reading one book. It takes daily effort. You have to do the work.

Consistent daily discipline is the path to victory. Extreme Ownership is the guide down that path. If you find yourself reading this article, you are not alone.

At Echelon Front, we’ve helped thousands of men and women just like you. If you’re tired of being frustrated and feeling out of balance, then you are at the right place to find solutions. The key to progress is action.

Here’s what I want you to do now: Click this link and visit Extreme Ownership Academy, our online resource for leadership development for people just like you who want to learn how to more effectively find balance at work, at home, and in their lives.  

Leif Babin, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the President and co-founder of Echelon Front LLC, a premier leadership consulting and training company. Leif is the co-author, alongside Jocko Willink, of the New York Times best selling books, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, and the Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win. Echelon Front teaches the principles of Extreme Ownership and the Dichotomy of Leadership to help leaders apply them in their world to solve problems, accomplish their goals and achieve victory in business and life.

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