“Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life’,
by Stewart D. Friedman
Reviewed by Hunter Gray
As a millennial, I’m told my generation is motivated and driven by the search for meaning — especially at work. Enter Stewart D. Friedman’s “Total Leadership”, a personal and leadership development framework espousing a holistic
perspective on how anyone, at any level within an organization, can under-stand, discover, and explore what leadership means in their own lives.
Friedman’s book structure aligns with the three major components of a ‘total leader’: be real (by acting with authenticity), be whole (by acting with integrity), and be innovative (by acting with creativity).
At its core, Total Leadership attempts to answer the question, “how do I or will I weave the strands of work, family, community, and self into the fabric of [my] life?” Naturally, the target here is harmony between the various threads (or “domains” in Total Leadership language). Joining the fields of leadership and work/life integration, Friedman progresses the leadership discussion beyond the classic models focused on traits, tasks, and hierarchical positioning.
■ Being real and acting with authenticity focuses on the importance of understanding and articulating what you care most about in life (values), what direction you’d like to take (aspirations), and what leading your life would ideally look like (vision). Simply put, this is about knowing oneself and having that understanding as a foundational baseline for the experiments to come.
■ Being whole and acting with integrity explores the importance of identifying people who have a stake in your future (key stakeholders), understanding what they expect of you and clarifying what you expect of them. While a seemingly straightforward concept, acting with integrity means more than merely acting with principle. In this component, acting with integrity is about understanding your life as a system and how the various parts can be interdependent.
■ Being innovative and acting with creativity means actively pursuing your vision for life in imaginative ways to achieve “four-way wins” — ones in which satisfaction and performance increase in all domains of life, not just one at a time. Friedman encourages you to pursue coherence across domains of life and to creatively experiment with how to discover such coherence.
Friedman provides personal narratives from individuals who have tried the Total Leadership program and found it to be enlightening, challenging, and enriching in their lives.
The aim of Total Leadership is not to simply analyze, theorize, and come to some academic understanding of leadership. Instead, the purpose is to suggest a model for leadership focused on enriching and enhancing you as a person, in all domains of life. Friedman deftly balances the daunting consideration of how you might enrich all areas of life at once with tangible and compelling exercises that empowers you to experience the Total Leadership process on your own.
Rarely does a book’s introduction give rise to significant surprise, and yet Friedman’s does just that. In context of a culture that places a heavy emphasis on seeing immediate results, Friedman asserts that going through the Total Leadership process (facilitated by this book) takes roughly four months! I only wish I had started reading four months ago…
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Stew Friedman, author of ‘Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life’ , is a professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and is a well-renowned expert in work/life integration and leadership development.