Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life

By Stewart D. Friedman

This is an excerpt from the introduction of Friedman’s recently published book, in which he teaches readers how to possess leadership qualities on an interpersonal and functional level. He explores the value of creativity, integrity, authenticity and the integration of work with personal life, and the “four-way-wins” process.

Total leadership is a novel synthesis of ideas that have emerged from two traditionally separate fields: the study of leadership and the study of how individuals can find harmony among the different parts of their lives.

Learning the Total Leadership method and producing four-way wins is possible for anyone willing to practice being real (acting with authenticity), being whole (acting with integrity), and being innovative (acting with creativity). Leadership can – indeed must – be learned. It is learned by taking action toward a direction you choose, gaining support, exercising skills, reflecting on your experience, and then coaching others. And you can always get better at leadership, much as a master musician is always perfecting the tools of her craft.

Total Leadership is not an abstract idea: it is a structured method that produces measurable change. You become more focused on the things that matter, and so you feel more grounded, more like the person you want to be. You generate more support and feel more connected to the important people in your life. You become more resilient in response to the vagaries of our turbulent world. And you become more open to discovery and so feel more hopeful, indeed enthusiastic, about the future and your power to shape it.

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Be Real: Act with Authenticity
Acting with authenticity gives you the strength that comes from doing what you love, drawing on the resources of your whole life, knowing that you’re creating value for your self, your family, your business, your world. Effective leaders articulate a vision — a compelling image of an achievable future — that inspires them and the people around them. Their everyday actions fit not only with their personal values but also with the values of the groups of which they are a part. Through continual observation and reflection, they know their priorities, their strengths and weaknesses. They increase commitment to common goals by genuinely talking and listening to the people they care most about. And they hold themselves and others accountable for pursuing valued goals.


Be Whole: Act with Integrity
Acting with integrity satisfies the craving for a sense of connection, for coherence in the disparate parts of life, and for the peace of mind that comes from adhering to a consistent code. Effective leaders take responsibility for recognizing and respecting the value of all aspects of life. They align the interests of different people in gaining support for common goals. They maintain the boundaries that enable value to be created at work as well as in other aspects of life. They nurture social networks and partnerships that provide the support needed for achieving meaningful results.


Be Innovative: Act with Creativity
Acting with creativity allows you to adapt to fit new circumstances, gives you confidence to try new ways of doing things, and keeps you vital. Effective leaders continually rethink the means by which goals are achieved; they keep a results-driven focus while providing maximum flexibility (choice in how, when, and where things get done). They have the courage to experiment with new arrangements and communications tools to better meet the expectations of people who depend on them. They don’t rely on face time for getting things done, but use it wisely while taking advantage of the flexibility and control afforded by new media.


Redefining Leadership – Bringing the Whole Person In
Being a leader means inspiring committed action that engages people in taking intelligent steps, in a direction you have chosen, to achieve something that has significant meaning for all relevant parties — to win, in other words. Individuals can do this whether they are at the top, middle, or bottom of an organization or group. And they can do this in businesses, families, friendship networks, communities, and social associations.

Total Leadership is not an abstract idea: it is a structured method that produces measurable change.

The term “leader” refers to any individual who chooses to try to mobilize people toward valued goals. Everyone has the potential to lead, and to do so in all aspects of life. Leader in its most important sense means being the agent of your own life, influencing the things you care about most in the world to make it a richer life.


Redefining Work/Life – Individuals Pursuing Four-Way Wins
The Total Leadership method is about having a richer life, but it is not about “work/life balance.” Even though it is sometimes unavoidable, thinking about work and the rest of life as a series of trade-offs is fundamentally counterproductive.

The quixotic quest for balance restricts many of us. Unless you seek ways to integrate the four domains of your life and find the potential for each part to help produce success in the others, you cannot then capitalize on synergies in placesmost of us don’t see or hear. If we pursue four-way wins, we clarify from the start that all constituents must gain for any one of them to gain.

Effective leaders take responsibility for recognizing and respecting the value of all aspects of life.

Individuals (at all levels) must act to create meaningful change, whether or not supportive policies are in place. Individuals in their different ways, in their different circumstances must integrate work with the rest of life.


What Is Leadership and Why Does It Matter?
What is it that leaders do that’s so important? They inspire commitment to produce results that matter to the collective, whether through the “path-goal” model of leadership, in which a leader clears the path towards the goal of the group by meeting the needs of subordinates, or through the experimental model, in which leaders bring people together to improve a group, an organization, or society. Leadership is no longer just about people at the top of the pyramid. In the last four decades, new approaches have increasingly focused on values that run deeper than one’s performance at work.


How Does Work Fit with the Rest of Life?
In the last two decades this field — now called “work/life” — has expanded to include researchers not only from child development and organizational psychology but also from labor economics and law, business strategy, cultural anthropology, public policy, family systems, and international management. Researchers have developed new models for understanding how people and organizations manage the dynamic tensions among different roles in life.

Increasingly, we are learning about how we must not view any particular part of life in isolation but, rather, as part of an interdependent system of roles with potential for both mutual enrichment and depletion.


How Do Organizations Cultivate Productive People?
Another body of ideas evolved to reverse the industrial trend toward dehumanized and dehumanizing work that resulted from the assembly line and bureaucratic organization structures. Business leaders came to realize that the economic model of the worker as a mere extension of the machine was destructive — and it reduced motivation and productivity.

Current practices such as workplace flexibility reflect theories that emerged then about how to design work so that it makes sense for the individual and the organization. The idea that investment in people means investing in “whole people” has gained currency. Analyses of the new worker increasingly focus on both work and other parts of life, and on fresh conceptions of what “good work” means.


Total Leadership in the Twenty-First Century Social Change
The single-earner father and stay-at-home mother have been replaced by diverse models of  “the standard home,” demanding a radical revision in the expectations for time devoted to work, by men and women. Gender equity, while not yet achieved, is gaining ground in all spheres of society, creating new expectations and opportunities. In the wake of recent corporate scandals, the status of business is low, and citizens demand greater corporate accountability and ethical action. New public policies oblige business executives to find firmer moral ground and to avoid the temptations of greed.

“Leader” in its most important sense means being the agent of your own life, influencing the things you care about most in the world to make it a richer life.


Demands of a New Workforce
People want to do work that has a positive impact on a world in which conflict seems pervasive. The best companies to work for are those in which employees work hard while having fun with people they see as their friends. Yet loyalty to a single organization is gone.


Technological Shifts
The digital revolution is forcing everyone to learn how to exploit new communication tools that promise freedom (allowing us not to be bound to a particular time or place) but often lead to a new kind of slavery (24/7 connectivity). New media require that we — as leaders of our lives — choose where, when, and how to get things done, to manage the boundaries between different parts of life. This sets us apart from all prior generations, whose work routines were determined by the turning of the seasons and the rising and setting of the sun.


Changes in Organizations and Markets
The torrid pace of change is compelling everyone in business to adapt to new situations, all the time. Ever-increasing demand for better productivity stresses and fragments our lives, causing health problems and burnout. At the same time, businesses are competing in the “war for talent” as labor shortages continue in critical sectors of the economy. Flatter organization structures mean a greater sense of responsibility for all, while globalization and the increasingly diverse pool of employees require new approaches to motivating people from different backgrounds.

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Press. Excerpted from Total Leadership by Stewart D. Friedman. Copyright 2014. All Rights reserved.

About the Author

SDF portrait-1Stewart Friedman has been on faculty of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania since 1984.  He is founding director of both the Wharton Leadership Program and the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project. A sought-after speaker, he has consulted two White House administrations, the United Nations, and organizations worldwide.  He is author of the bestselling Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life and of Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. Visit; Twitter @StewFriedman.




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