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"The quixotic quest for [work/]balance restricts many of us... We need to drop the slash and look instead for four-way wins." Stewart Friedman, author of Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life.

Is life a zero-sum game? Do gains in your professional life come at the cost of your personal life? If you spend more energy in your community, do you have less for self? If you narrow yourself to a "work/life" balance construct, that's exactly what happens. To win somewhere, you lose elsewhere.

Wharton Professor Stewart Friedman "drops the slash" - and the restrictive mindset - with the concept of Total Leadership and four-way wins. What are they - and how can you achieve more of these wins?

Work + Home + Community + Self = Enhanced Results

Total leadership seeks to drive performance improvements in work, home, community, and self. "Leadership in business can't be just about business anymore. It has to be about life as a whole."

Four-way wins, then, are "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 your self, but for all these seemingly disparate domains of your life."

When you can integrate these various facets of your life, you achieve more and more four-way wins, and you'll become a "more inspired, effective leader." The proof is in the results: Friedman conducted a four-month study of more than 300 professionals who completed his Total Leadership workshop. He found that they experienced increased satisfaction and performance in each domain.

  • Work: Satisfaction: +20%, Performance:+9%
  • Home: Satisfaction: +28%, Performance:+15%
  • Community: Satisfaction: +31%, Performance:+12%
  • Self: Satisfaction: +39%, Performance:+25%

And interestingly, while they saw improvements at work, the actual amount of time they spent at work decreased. They were able to work smarter, more efficiently, and with sharper focus.

The question is how did they do it - and how can you?

3 Principles of Total Leadership

Friedman believes that four-way wins are possible for anyone who practices the three principles on which Total Leadership is based:

  • Be Real. Act with authenticity by clarifying what's important.
  • Be Whole. Act with integrity by respecting the whole person.
  • Be Innovative. Act with creativity by experimenting with how things get done.

The Total Leadership process, says Friedman, is "straightforward, though not simple." It starts by "taking a clear view of what you want from, and can contribute to, each domain of your life." It starts by "Being Real." (Being Whole and Being Innovative will be covered in subsequent articles - don't worry!)

Get Real: Starting Your Total Leadership Journey

What's important to you? At work? At home? In your community? To your physical/spiritual/emotional self? Friedman suggests that you:

  • Write about what's important to you.
  • Think about your core values. How have crucial events shaped them?
  • Develop a future vision: what kind of leader do you want to be? What kind of legacy do you want to build?

When you're clear about what's important, you can align your actions with your priorities and values. But figuring out what actually matters is harder than you might think. The Four Circles exercise can guide you.

My Four Circles

The Four Circles can help you improve performance by "creating mutual value" among the four domains: work, home, community, and self.

  1. Start by creating a picture of the four domains ( has easy-to-use icons), and adjust the size according to how important each is to you.
  2. Next, decide how "compatible" each domain is with the others. Two domains can be in harmony, for instance, when the goals of one, and methods of achieving them, fit with the other. How much do your circles overlap? Or do they fail to overlap at all? Are they in conflict with each other?

What would your life look like if your goals for each domain, and the methods of reaching them, "lined up perfectly, like the concentric rings of a tree trunk"? Friedman admits that, for most of us, that's unattainable. But, at the same time, he urges us to consider what actions we could take to align them more closely, to create more harmony among them.

If you're a parent, for instance, can you explain to your children the benefits of your work (on your finances, on society, etc.) so they have a better understanding of what you do and how you contribute? Or could you adjust your work schedule to spend more time with them?

Friedman, himself, faced this dilemma as a father. To meet both his work goals and his home goals, he rose early and worked so he had time to eat breakfast with his children and walk them to the bus stop. It's not about juggling or balancing; it's about remembering priorities and meeting the goals you've set for yourself. And, as you can see from this example, it's about taking small steps - which add up.

The Four Circles exercise helps you identify what matters in your life. Armed with that insight, you can work to:

  • Embody your values consistently.
  • Align your actions with your values.
  • Convey your values with stories.
  • Envision your legacy.
  • Hold yourself accountable.

Friedman says that Total Leadership "starts with knowing what you care about, and then being able to express it in ways people can relate to. The really hard part is the first piece - looking identify what you stand for and where you're trying to take yourself and the world."

Straightforward, though not simple. Total Leadership requires a fundamental mindset shift: you can't balance work/life. You have to figure out what's important to you and how to achieve the results you want. Acting with authenticity is just the beginning. What's next?


Larry Hart

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