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You Can Be a Great Leader and Also Have a Life


Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk tweets that no one changed the world working 40 hours a week. He rarely sleeps or sees his kids and had a famously public meltdown. Apple’s Tim Cook is on email before the sun rises. And billionaire Mark Cuban worked until 2 am launching his first business and didn’t take a vacation for seven years.


These intense working styles are often celebrated as the only way to get to the top and be a superproductive leader. Indeed, surveys show that managers and executives describe the “ideal worker” as someone with no personal life or caregiving responsibilities. And a majority of leaders themselves — the ones who set the tone for organizations and model behavior for everyone else — think work-life balance is “ at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth.


But does it have to be that way?


That’s a question Jessica DeGroot sought to answer when she started the nonprofit ThirdPath Institute. She formed a group of about two dozen men and women in senior management at small businesses and Fortune 500 companies who wanted to challenge the notion that work-life balance is impossible for leaders. For nearly two decades, the group has been helping each other figure out how to work more effectively so that leaders could have time for their lives, sharing successful strategies and learning from failures.


For leaders to stand up to status quo pressures and make work-life balance a priority, DeGroot discovered, they had to cultivate skills around three relationships: learning to work differently with their teams at work, making a plan with their families to put home and family first and shifting their own mindsets to believe change is truly possible. The stories of three leaders exemplify how this can be done.


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