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

Tuesday, December 09, 2014  
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By Stewart D. Friedman

Reviewed by Colin Creel
{HeadLines} October 2014

If you want a leadership book that you can read, digest and implement without much self-reflection, then stop reading now because this is not the book for you. As educators, we are always trying to achieve balance in our lives. Stewart Friedman’s book, Total Leadership – Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, presents “a fresh approach for developing leadership and it offers a new method for integrating work, home, community, and self.”   
 
Stewart D. Friedman’s professional life was progressing rather well, but his enthusiasm was tempered by the challenges he and his wife faced trying to have children. The birth of their first child was a watershed moment in his life and career. After the birth of his daughter, he set aside his daily organizational theory lecture to talk about the experience in class. Furthermore, he dove deeper by asking his class, “What responsibility do you have for creating work environments that help to cultivate the next generation? What will you do as a business professional, to weave the strands of work, family, community, and self into the fabric of your own life?” He did not realize it at that time, but that lecture changed the course of the rest of his career. As the founding director of the Wharton Leadership Program and of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project at the University of Pennsylvania, Friedman has helped countless individuals re-prioritize their lives. 
 
The book is divided into three parts: Be Real – Act with Authenticity, Be Whole – Act with Integrity, and Be Innovative – Act with Creativity. Each part is laced with concrete exercises (33 in total). Thus, in many ways, applying the principles from Friedman’s book to one’s own life might work best in a group setting where the individuals could hold one another accountable, but it would require a heightened level of trust within that group due to the level of intimacy and vulnerability required. 
 
The first part, Be Real, forces the reader to clarify “what is important to you?” The exercises demand depth that force the reader to ask questions like, “what are the critical events in my life that have shaped my story” or “what are my core values?” The exercises are designed to assess if you are being real: “are you paying attention to what you care about most, acting in ways that are consistent with the person you want to be, going after goals that matter, and achieving happiness in all the parts as well in your life as a whole?” The next step involves identifying your four domains. Most individuals identify their four domains with some variation of the following four categories: work/career/school, home/family, community/society, self (mind/body/spirit). 
 
After identifying one’s four domains, the author encourages the reader to assign first, a percentage of importance that they place on that domain, and second, a percentage of their focus of time and energy. Both columns must total 100%. The idea behind the chart is that it helps the reader ascertain the discrepancies behind what we say we value and how we actually spend our time. Finally, the author asks that you draw four circles that represent each domain in your life. When drawing the circles, consider the size of the circle (corresponds to the importance assigned to it) as well as the relative location (do the domains overlap or are they completely separate). The main idea is seeing whether your life is compatible or in conflict. The ultimate goal is to have a greater overlap within your circles thus showing a very compatible life. The rest of the book digs into how to achieve greater balance. 
 
The second part, Be Whole, requires the reader to identify the key stakeholders in their life. In other words, who are the people with whom you interact with the most in each domain and who are the people “with the greatest amount of influence on your life and the people on whose lives you exert a great deal of influence." You need buy in. If your stakeholders are not on board, you will certainly fail. My wife and I enjoy watching the television show “Extreme Weight Loss.” Not surprisingly, those who are successful in losing the necessary pounds have a great support system and those who struggle are in constant conflict with their loved ones. Intentional conversations help guide and direct what each party needs in order to achieve success. 
 
The third part, Be Innovative, challenges leaders to think creatively and design experiments to push toward a four-way win. In other words, “what could you try that would produce some benefit for each of your four domains?” The rest of the chapter walks the reader through how to design experiments with a small-wins approach (undertaking achievable controllable changes) and measure them appropriately. The small-wins approach “is effective because you make a well-considered move, get quick feedback on its impact, use this information to make adjustments to better meet the needs of the people around you, and so improve your chances of everyone ending up as winners." This portion really encourages the reader to get one’s stakeholders involved and create win-win scenarios. For instance, at Cornerstone Christian Academy (Peachtree Corners, GA) we talk about work/life balance quite a bit. I help my staff have balance by modeling that I will not email them from 6 PM to 6 AM and I ask them to do the same with their colleagues. I encourage them to create healthy boundaries so their chances of being successful in this arena are much greater than individuals who work for a boss who has blurred boundaries. 
 
In summation, Total Leadership is a book of reflection and growing. It’s not a book that simply offers a couple of good nuggets, but rather a methodology for continual reflection and analysis of one’s life. The underlying notion rests in the idea that you are a better employee/leader if you allocate your time according to what you value. The more you can overlap your circles, the more content you will be. It’s a fairly idealistic book. Generally speaking, I feel most educators’ domains are fairly well aligned because so much is asked of educators. Nevertheless, for those who feel pulled in too many directions this book might help to put a plan of action in place. 
 
Have a book you would like to review for SAIS? Contact sarah@sais.org.


 

  

Colin Creel is the headmaster at Cornerstone Christian Academy. He can be reached at ccreel@cornerstonecougars.net.


 

 

 


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