Leaders! Get on The Balcony to see the Big Picture

As leaders, we often find ourselves immersed in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of our teams and organisations. We’re on the dance floor, moving to the rhythm of deadlines, meetings, and urgent tasks. But there’s a crucial skill that distinguishes exceptional leaders: the ability to step back, gain perspective, and observe the bigger picture. This skill is beautifully captured by the metaphor of “getting on the balcony.”


The Balcony and the Dance

The concept of “the balcony and the dance” was introduced by Ronald Heifets, Marty Linsky, and Alexander Grashow in their book The Practice of Adaptive Leadership and is strongly endorsed by Robert Kegan, guru in the arena of Adult Mental Development, as one of the ways in which we can foster the new levels of thinking needed in these times.

Imagine a grand ballroom with a lively dance floor below and an elegant balcony above. Here’s how it applies to leadership:

When we’re on the dance floor, we’re in the thick of things. We’re engaged, interacting, and making decisions. It’s where the action happens. As leaders, we’re close to our teams, addressing immediate challenges, solving problems, and ensuring things run smoothly. Being on the dance floor is essential—it keeps us connected and responsive.

The balcony offers a different vantage point. It’s where we step back, away from the movement, and observe from a distance. From the balcony, we see patterns, dynamics, and trends that aren’t as apparent amidst the action. We gain clarity. It’s a place of reflection, strategic thinking, and long-term vision.


Why Get on the Balcony?

  1. Gain Perspective:
    • Stepping onto the balcony allows us to see beyond the immediate chaos. We notice systemic issues, recurring patterns, and underlying tensions.  It’s like zooming out on a map—you see the entire landscape, not just the street you’re standing on.
  2. Break the Spell of Groupthink:
    • On the dance floor, groupthink can take hold. We’re influenced by the energy, urgency, and emotions of the moment. The balcony provides distance, breaking the spell. We question assumptions and challenge prevailing norms.
  3. Make Informed Decisions:
    • Leaders on the balcony make better decisions. They consider long-term consequences, strategic alignment, and organisational health. It’s not about detachment; it’s about informed engagement.

Practical Steps for Balcony Time:

  1. Schedule It: Set aside regular balcony time. It could be a weekly reflection session or a monthly strategy review.
  2. Ask Questions: When faced with a challenge, pause and ask: “What’s really going on here? What patterns do I see?”
  3. Seek Feedback: Invite others to join you on the balcony. Their perspectives enrich your view.
  4. Zoom In and Out: Balance dance floor intensity with balcony reflection. Both are essential.
  5. Engage a Coach: Coaching is a time-effective way to explore multiple perspectives, taking yourself out of the everyday to see the bigger picture.

We emphasise the importance of balcony moments in our Executive Coaching and Leadership Programmes, encouraging leaders to explore their own thoughts, stepping back to gain perspective. Being able to sway on the dance floor and view from the balcony is a true meta-skill—one that enhances our effectiveness and wisdom as leaders.

If you sense there’s new levels of thinking you can explore, if you desire to elevate your leadership and magnify your impact, and soar, then we invite you to reach out to us at info@mojoforleaders.com and discover how our Elevate coaching or our SOAR Leadership Programme can empower and support you as you embark on a journey of growth, fulfilment, and transformation. We’ll be delighted to help you.

P.S. Read here about next level Thinking Partnerships that nurture Balcony Thinking and our Committed Partnership approach