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"To be whole is to live a life in which the parts are integrated in a way that makes sense and has coherence." Stewart Friedman, author of Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Live a Richer Life

Work/life balance is an unattainable goal; integration, though, is not only possible - it's the key to greater efficacy as a leader. Stewart Friedman pioneered the Total Leadership process to help people improve performance at work, home, community, and self and create mutual value among these domains. The first pillar in the process is to be real, or act with authenticity. What's next for individuals who want to live and lead more fully, and effectively?

The Whole Leader

As you'll recall, the Total Leadership model is founded on three principles:

  • Be Real (act with authenticity).
  • Be Whole (act with integrity).
  • Be Innovative (act with creativity).

Being real requires you to clarify what matters to you in the domains of work, home, community, and self (mind, body, spirit). Being whole is about finding ways to integrate those priorities and bringing all of our skills and competencies to bear. It is about respecting the whole person.

When Friedman speaks about integrity, he is not referring to honesty or character, but rather the strength inherent in a well-designed system or structure. He writes:

"The whole fits together elegantly. Effective leaders tap into that power by recognizing and respecting all aspects of life, maintaining the boundaries that enable productive effort in each domain while taking advantage of resources from one by applying it to others."

How can you do this? Let's take a closer look at this statement.

Recognizing and Respecting All Aspects of Life

Identify the "key stakeholders" in each domain of your life. At home, for instance, your stakeholders may be your spouse or partner, your children, your parents, or other family members and close friends. To determine who is a stakeholder, ask:

  • Who are the most important people/groups in each of the four domains?
  • With whom do I have the most frequent contact?
  • Who has the most influence on me - and on whom do I exert the most influence?

When you've identified these folks, ask: What do they expect of me? What do I expect of them?

Then, the hard part, talk to them! Friedman calls these "stakeholder dialogs." Through these talks, you gain insight into how each domain fits together and what people actually expect of you. You may, and probably will, according to Friedman, find that their expectations of you aren't as demanding as you'd thought.

And this is good news because you can drop the guilt and "reallocate your time and attention more intelligently." At the same time, you align your interests more strongly with theirs, build better connections, and help people more effectively and efficiently.

Maintaining Boundaries

By viewing your life as a system, you can act with integrity - and keep the system strong - by maintaining boundaries. Here, a boundary marks a line of separation between the domains. Why, if you're a "whole" person, do you need to worry about boundaries? It's precisely because you are a whole person that you need to!

Say, for instance, that you're especially busy with work. It bleeds over into your evenings. You've identified being present with your family as a priority, so this becomes a boundary issue. Maybe you set aside an hour when you first get home to work, then devote the rest of your time to your family. Or maybe you say, "Forget work!" and have fun until everyone's in bed.

This is what Friedman calls "segmenting." He also advocates experimenting with "merging." Instead of keeping the various aspects of your life separate, how can you bring them together? This might be as simple as inviting a coworker for dinner or bringing your spouse to a company social event or asking him or her for suggestions on your next presentation.

Give both a try. Which worked better for you? Segmenting or merging? Some combination of the two? When were you more productive? More focused?

Applying Your Resources

How can you apply the skills and talents you have in one domain (e.g. work) to enhance another (e.g. community)? Friedman recommends trying the talent transfer exercise. List all of the skills you own. They could range from organizing a great client pitch to coaching your kid's Little League team to whipping up a mean batch of chili.

Now, how can you use these skills in completely different situations, to achieve completely different goals? How can you leverage accomplishments, to bolster areas that need improvement? This exercise requires you to consider the whole person, not divide yourself - or your skills - into disparate factions.

Do you, as a whole, fit together elegantly? Or are you struggling to pull the demands and pressures of work, home, community, and self together? Figuring out how to integrate these domains will not only help you become a better leader at work, it will help you become a better leader in every aspect of your life.


Larry Hart

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