Finding Balance and Authenticity

713024.TIFKirk Kinsell was voted as most likely to succeed when he was in kindergarten, and surely his classmates knew what they were talking about. Kinsell serves as president of the Americas for the London-based hospitality firm InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). But as Penn students learned during his recent Wharton Leadership Lecture (including his son and Wharton MBA student Kyle Kinsell), he owes much of his success to his enlightened sense of work-life balance.

If they took one thing away from the talk, students should ponder Kinsell’s claim that one should be the same person at work that one is at home or at play. It’s controversial. We live in a fenced-off world where we use different social media for different aspects of our lives — LinkedIn for work, Facebook for friends and family. What you post on one can get your fired from your job.

Kinsell’s point: Be authentic.

It’s also about knowing yourself. What gets you out of bed in the morning, what is your purpose in life, what do you want to be remembered for? Your answers ought to align with what you do at work.

Then again, Kinsell stressed that unplugging from work is also important.

“Having a job is not having a life,” he said.

Kirk Kinsell

Kirk Kinsell

Then again, perhaps the American corporate workplace is not built around authenticity or work-life balance. In his wide-ranging lecture, Kinsell shared his experiences working with colleagues around the world and compared the American and the European meeting style. In Europe, he said, people expect their leaders to listen to them. When you ask them how they are doing, they expect you to stop and let them answer. In meetings, everyone wants to have their say.

“In that environment you have a lot of dialogue,” he said.

A leader in that setting earns respect by taking in everyone’s input and then executing a decision.

Conversely, American meetings tend to run like this: colleagues agree with one another about a particular course of action, but then they leave the meeting and do something completely different, Kinsell said.

Just as many people behave a particular way in the office but then let their hair down in a completely different way as soon as they swipe out for the day.

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