Leadership: It starts and ends with you
Total Leadership is not an abstract idea. It is a structured method that produces measurable change
You are more effective as leader, better able to propel people towards a goal, if you view that goal in the context of other goals in other domains
“Total Leadership focuses on valued goals in all domains of life, as opposed to the traditional view of understanding leadership in one domain at a time, in isolation of the others,” says Stewart D Friedman, Practice Professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and the founder and CEO of Total Leadership
Total Leadership presents a fresh approach for developing leadership. It offers a new method for integrating work, home, community and self. Total Leadership is designed to work for anyone, at any organizational level and at any stage in career. It seeks ‘four-way wins’: results that are meaningful not only for your work and career, or for your home and family, or for your community and society, or for yourself, but for all these seemingly disparate domains of your life.
Learning Total Leadership 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 towards a direction you choose, gaining support, exercising skills, reflecting on your experience, and then coaching others.
Total Leadership Yields Real Results
Total Leadership came to fruition when I was recruited to head a leadership development program at a Fortune 50 company. We started with 35 high-potential managers from across the globe. They followed all the steps in the Total Leadership program In a span of four months, they implemented changes that touched work and other parts of their lives. Their experiments produced a combined $5.8 million in cost savings, $0.7 million in new revenue and $0.5 million in productivity gains at work.
In addition to the quantifiable dollar results, these business professionals improved their relationships with customers and colleagues, and felt more satisfied with their jobs. They felt more deeply connected to their families and their communities, especially since they had drawn them into the process of change. They reported feeling healthier and less stressed. They were making better use of leisure time. They were feeling better about the company and more excited about tying their future to its future.
These business professionals accomplished these results not by instituting lean manufacturing or quality-control programs like Six Sigma, they did it by reframing the idea of business leadership, by applying new skills and insights at work, at home, in the community, and within themselves.
I have asked hundreds of participants to compare how they assess their satisfaction before and after they have adopted the practice of the Total Leadership method. Their levels of satisfaction increase by an average of 20 per cent in their work lives, 28 per cent in their home lives, and 31 per cent in their community lives. Perhaps most significantly, their satisfaction with their own self -- physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual -- increases by 39 per cent. Similarly, they report that they believe their own performance at work, at home, in their communities, and within themselves has improved 9, 15, 12, and 25 per cent respectively.
Both satisfaction and performance get better.
Learning the Practice of Total Leadership
Total Leadership is not an abstract idea. It is a structured method that produces measurable change.
You stand to improve your leadership ability and impact by practicing these principles:
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 are creating value for yourself, your family, your business, your world. Effective leaders articulate a vision 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.
Be Whole: Act with Integrity. Acting with integrity satisfies the craving for a sense of connection, for coherence in different 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 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 to new circumstances, gives you the confidence to try new ways of doing things, and keeps you vital.
Effective leaders continually re-think 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 communication tools to better meet the expectations of people who depend on them.
You can start to bring these principles to life by exploring what it means for you to be real, clarifying what is important by writing about how crucial events in your past have shaped your values, and about your aspirations for your life in the future. You will take the four-way view by assessing the relative importance of work, home, community and self; how much you actually focus attention to each of these parts of your life; how satisfied you are with them; and how well the goals you pursue are aligned with each other. This is the foundation for authenticity and for everything that follows: Knowing what really matters to you.
You will hence explore who really matters to you. First you will identify the most important people in your life and what you expect of them, as well as what they expect of you. You will think through how these performance expectations affect each other, looking perhaps for the first time at these central relationships in your life.
With a new, clearer perspective on what and who matters most, you have set an interdependent system. By asking whether this system has integrity, whether and how the pieces fit together as a whole, you will think about how you use different forms of communication to connect with these ‘key stakeholders’, as I call them. You will then prepare for and conduct dialogues with each to verify your assumptions and to see what things look like through their eyes.
Redefining Leadership – Bringing the Whole Person in
A common definition is that leaders mobilize people towards valued goals.
Total Leadership focuses on valued goals in all domains of life -- four-way wins -- as opposed to the traditional view of understanding leadership in one domain at a time, in isolation of the others. You are more effective as a leader, better able to propel people towards a goal, if you view that goal in the context of other goals in other domains.
And who are those we call leaders? There is a growing recognition in leadership theory and practice that (a) the potential for expressing leadership -- for doing what leaders do -- is not the sole province of managers and executives, but is rather, universal and, (b) groups and organizations benefit when all members feel like leaders, seeing themselves as capable of mobilizing people towards valued goals. Leadership is a limitless resource: The more the better.
Being a leader, therefore, is not the same as being a middle manager or a top executive. 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. They can do this in businesses, families, friendship networks, communities and social associations.
Total Leadership challenges -- and changes -- the way you think about yourself as a leader. It encourages you to see connections between every area of your life, knowing that the best rewards come from integrating them rather than trading off between them. And you will perform better at work because it fits in a more meaningful way with your family life, your role in society, and your needs for health and fulfilment. As a leader, you will find new ways to make things better. Leadership in business is not about business, it is about life.
Total Leadership is about having a richer life, but it is not about ‘work/life balance’. An image of two scales in balance is the wrong metaphor. Over the past few decades, work/life advocates have produced major gains. Social policies and corporate programs have been designed to make it easier for working men and women to lead a full and productive life. Unfortunately, work/life programs are often viewed as pitting the interests of business against those of other parts of life. We need to drop the slash and look instead to four-way wins. If we pursue four-way wins, we clarify from the start that all constituents must gain for any one of them to gain.
A better metaphor for our quest comes from the jazz quartet: Becoming a total leader is analogous to playing richly textured music with the sounds of life’s various instruments. Total Leadership is not about muting the trumpet so the saxophone can be heard.
A Model of Leadership Suited for the 21st Century
The immediate roots of Total Leadership as a theory were formed by 20th century scholars who explored such fundamental questions as: What is leadership and why does it matter? How does work fit with the rest of life? How do organizations cultivate productive people? How do people and organizations learn and change? Total Leadership grows directly from these roots and responds to particular features of our present moment. The most significant of them being:
i) 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 the time devoted to work, by men and women. In the wake of recent corporate scandals, the status of business is low and citizens demand greater corporate accountability and ethical action.
ii) Demands of a new workforce: People want to do work that has a positive impact on the world. 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 (the model of my youth) is gone.
iii) 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 requires 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.
iv) Changes in organizations and markets: The torrid pace of change is compelling everyone in business to adapt to new situations all the time. The 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 labour shortage continues 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 motivate people from different backgrounds.
It Starts and Ends with You
Total Leadership draws on these sources and responds to the demands of today’s world. It however starts and ends with the individual, with you, in the context of your whole life and the relationships that matter most. You have to choose to lead, no matter what your position, no matter what the stage of your career, no matter what your life circumstances, no matter how much you are being buffeted by changing conditions. If you are going to make a difference, thinking of yourself as a leader will make it more likely that your legacy turns out to be the one you really want. My book Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life outlines a program that will take you through realistic steps to help you become the leader you want to be. It will make you articulate your values and envision your dreams. You will assess your relationships with people who matter most to you. Your key stakeholders and you will bring these relationships along on your leadership journey. You will design experiments that will in turn allow you to learn more about the dynamics of creating change. In the end, it will be a unique story, because you and every other reader will make different choices.
The Total Leadership experience only requires you to take a realistic look at the bigger picture of your life, and then use tools designed to help you lead more effectively. You will decide on what changes you want to make and how you want to make them. You will be doing some serious introspection, as well as reaching out to others. You will have intensive, productive conversations with people in your inner circle. Since it involves other people, this program builds in accountability that makes changes stick.
You are not the only one wrestling with the challenges of becoming the leader you want to be, and integrating work and the rest of your life. I have created an online network to serve as a gathering point for a community of people dedicated to supporting each other’s efforts to produce meaningful, sustainable change. At www.totalleadership.org you will have access to others who have taken the Total Leadership journey, and who are eager to serve as coaches, share ideas and promote innovation.