The ‘Intentional Leader’ in the age of work/life blend

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The ‘Intentional Leader’ in the age of work/life blend

Way back in 1994 I took delivery of my very first (and sadly, only!) company car.

Naturally, I thought I’d made it! I thought I had finally arrived at the top of the tree. It was a bright red Renault 18 with lots of fancy stuff, like part leather seats, air-conditioning and electric windows. Oh, and a car phone. Yep, a car phone. The phone had been installed in the centre of the car between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat – where the central storage unit used to be. That had been removed to allow room for the car phone. The phone was absolutely huge. It was massive. It was the size of a small brick wall. And it was connected to its base station by a 2-meter curly, black plastic cable.

When I jumped into the car for the very first time, the very first thing I wanted to do was call somebody. Of course I did! – I had my first company car and it had a phone – albeit the size of a small brick wall jammed between the driver and passenger seats! The problem was that I had no-one to call. That was because back in 1994 almost no-one had a mobile phone. (To anyone reading this under the age of 35, this was what life was like ‘back then’. Back in the dark ages! It was very uncool and depressing). So, I called my mum at home in Manchester. She answered my call on the cream-coloured, dial-style home-phone that everyone had in 1994. My mum couldn’t believe that I was calling her from a car. A car! Whilst I was driving! It was like magic had actually happened.

If we fast forward a lifetime, we can only dream of not having someone to call and of not being ‘connected’ pretty much 24/7. Imagine that – no texting, no social media, no smartphones, no Facetime. The horror!

“As our work lives and our non-work lives become ever more entwined, connected and indistinguishable, two things are becoming very evident.”

It’s 2018 and this the modern world. Of course, it would be so much better for everyone if we could switch it all off and leave the workplace mentally at the same time as we leave it physically. I fear that the truth is that that ship has sailed. And it ain’t coming back anytime soon.

If anything, all evidence points to even more blurring of the now almost-indistinguishable line between work life and home life. Have you noticed, for example, how ‘work/life balance’ – the buzz phrase of the past decade – is fast becoming obsolete? And it’s just as quickly being replaced by a new concept and a shinier and more modern new buzz phrase; ‘work/life blend’.

As our work lives and our non-work lives become ever more entwined, connected and indistinguishable, two things are becoming very evident.

The first is the realisation that companies employ the whole person. That we aren’t two people. Revolutionary, hey! It seems silly to acknowledge that there’s work John or Joan and non-work John or Joan. But back in 1994 when I was cruising in my red Renault 18 with no-one to call, there was a clear line between work and home. That is no longer the case.

The idea that the organisations employ ‘the whole person’ has been creeping into management thinking for a few years.

“This ever-increasing blending of work and life is having another absolutely profound impact; it’s making management and leadership even harder than it once was.”

The funny thing is that the work/life balance revolution was focused mainly on the life side of the equation. Work was work and the workplace was the workplace. It was all about working from home, setting up a home office, taking days off for family reasons and ‘mental health days’. The new work/life blend trend is different. The focus is on the work side of the equation. Now that our homes are set up to mirror the workplace, the focus is on making the workplace more like our homes! As an example, I popped to see a Corporate Member of IML (an architectural firm) the other week and there were 3 dogs running around the office!

This ever-increasing blending of work and life is having another absolutely profound impact; it’s making management and leadership even harder than it once was.

Back in the day – in the day of car phones the size of small brick walls – managers were typically only required to manage ‘work John’ and ‘work Joan’. Not anymore. Today, we now need to manage and lead the whole person. We need to manage people who are experiencing illness, infertility, divorce, relocation, debt, alcoholism, issues with teenage kids, issues with pre-teenage kids, issues with blended families, issues with non-blended families, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, Gen whatever. The list is endless. The role of the leader is endless and boundary-less. Leadership – and leaders – have an impact on the whole person, not just on the person at work. As work and life have blended, so the role of the leader has become blended and blurred.

And all of this means that managing and leading today is bloody tough. It’s certainly not a 9-5 job that you can leave at your desk when you head off home. It’s a role – and a responsibility – that has become blended into what was once thought of as personal time. These days, as a leader we can’t simply switch off, leave the workplace and leave our ‘leadership’ on our stand-up desk. We take it with us. We carry it home. And this means something extremely important; it means that we must absolutely ensure that we are Intentional Leaders as opposed to Accidental Managers.

Look out for next week’s blog about the Intentional Leader.



By David Pich FIML, Chief Executive

Institute of Managers and Leaders


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