Total Leadership: A book review by Bob Morris

Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life
Stewart D. Friedman
Harvard Business School Press (2008)

Friedman recommends a four-step process of exploration and discovery of the relative importance in each of four domains in life (i.e. work, home, community, and self) in order to determine (a) whether or not the goals pursued in each are in synch, (b) in synch with goals in the other domains and (c) and how satisfied we are with what is happening in each and all domains. More specifically, here are a few of Friedman’s key points.

According to Friedman, “total” leaders possess great strength because they do what they love, drawing upon the resources of their entire (four-domain) life. By acting with authenticity, they are creating value for themselves, their families, their businesses, and their world. By acting with integrity, they satisfy their craving for a sense of connection, for coherence in disparate parts of their lives, and for the peace of mind that comes from strictly and consistently adhering to a code of values. Meanwhile, 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.”

At the same time, a “total” leader does everything she or he can to help others (at work, at home, in the community and for themselves) to become aware of whatever changes may be necessary within her or his own domains; to have a sense of urgency about making those modifications; to decide to commit to appropriate action that will create for each a different, better future; to solve whatever problems encountered when pursuing the giving goals, meanwhile sustaining commitment despite any barriers, delays, distractions, etc. Total leaders also ensure that “people who depend on them” have the support and encouragement they may need by celebrating incremental successes while resisting “slippage.”

Obviously what Friedman advocates is much easier said than done. Consider the concept of “balance,” of “integrating” what is most important in each of the four domains. Let’s assume that someone achieves that. For most of us (including corporate CEOs), a proper balance on weekdays usually differs (sometimes) substantially from a proper balance during weekends. Moreover, obligations, objectives, and opportunities in the work domain, for example, change during the progression of a career. That is, our proper balances on weekdays and weekends frequently change, and that is also true of each of the other three domains. The key to effectively responding to these changes is to think and feel one’s way through a four-step process.

 

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