I wish this book had been available 20 years ago when I was a senior-level corporate executive, struggling without much success to balance everything in my life. At that time, I had a large corporate staff to supervise and was married and the father of four teenagers, three sons and a daughter. Moreover, I was actively involved in several non-profit organizations. Finally, whenever possible, I tried to "squeeze" into my already busy life a occasional round of golf, a visit to one of the local art museums, "going out" to see a film. What I should have done -- but failed to do -- is what Stewart Friedman recommends in this book: to reflect on and then explore (through a four-step process of discovery) the relative importance of four domains in my life (i.e. work, home, community, and self) and determine (a) whether or not the goals I was pursuing in each were in synch, (b) in synch with the other goals, and (c) and how satisfied I was with what was happening in each and all domains. That was then...
Now, here's my take on a few of Friedman's key points.
1. Most people (including business leaders) function in the aforementioned domains. Once each has been measured, he challenge is to make whatever modifications are necessary to establish and then sustain harmony between and among them. "The whole fits together elegantly."
2. 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."
3. 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."
4. In Chapter 6, Friedman urges that those who aspire to become total leaders learn how to adapt to new circumstances with confidence to conduct several "design experiments" whose purpose is to increase the ability to be innovative with creative action. He identifies ten types such as "Appreciating and Caring" experiments that involve having fun with people, caring for others, and appreciating relationships. Daniel Goleman characterizes this as developing "emotional intelligence" and Friedman believes that it is very important in each of the four domains. Because each domain has different kinds of relationships, separate goals and strategies must be devised for nourishing ("humanizing") relationships in each.
5. In the next chapter, Friedman offers sound advice on "how to get going and make something new stick" during what is necessarily a never-ending process of human development. Once again, he stresses the importance of achieving "four-way wins" in each domain by "jumping" into the hearts and minds of others. "The best experiments are those that don't just get the approval from all your stakeholders, but will genuinely benefit them by changing their worlds for the better...When you're trying to make something new happen, you've got to know what others care about, so that you can adjust your actions. And you've got to know whom they trust, so that you know who will listen to whom as you seek to exert influence."
I can personally attest to the importance of each of these and Friedman's other key points. However, what he advocates is obviously 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.
Of course, Friedman is fully aware of this. In fact, in the final chapter, he observes that total leadership "doesn't end with the implementation of your experiments. This is really just the beginning. Being a better leader and having a richer life is an ongoing search, which I hope you will be on for the rest of your life. As long as you continue practicing authenticity, integrity, and creativity, you will increase your chances of scoring four-way wins - performing better and finding satisfaction in your various domains."
I presume to conclude this review with a personal note: After reading Friedman's book and before composing this review, I read The Last Lecture in which Randy Pausch (age 46) shares his thoughts and feelings as he awaits imminent death from pancreatic cancer. Actually, "awaits" is not the correct word because Pausch does everything he can to leave no "IOUs" behind for his beloved wife ("the woman of his dreams"), their three young children, other family members, friends, and associates. In his last lecture to his students at Carnegie-Mellon, he provides a "distillation" of how he felt about the end of his life. "It's not about how you achieve your dreams. It's about how you lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you." In my opinion, this is precisely the same message that Stewart Friedman communicates to his own students as they prepare for a career in business. The "total leader" is first and foremost a total person.