Book Review

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

by Stewart D. Friedman, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 2008, 272 pp., $25.95 hardcover

Many books have been written about finding a balance between one’s work life and life away from the office, but generally these works suggest that a gain in one part of life must result in a loss in the other.

Total Leadership


Author Stewart D. Friedman, who is founding director of the Wharton School’s leadership program and a former adviser to Al Gore and Jack Welch, suggests a better metaphor would be to think of life as a jazz quartet and that “becoming a total leader is analogous to playing richly textured music with the sounds of life’s various instruments.” He speaks of four-way wins that can result in an integrated whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Total Leadership takes the reader through a series of easily understood but thought-provoking exercises that allow each reader to develop personalized experiments to better understand how to meet the three all-encompassing goals of the program. The experiments and follow-up reflections help us learn to “Be Real: Act with Authenticity,” “Be Whole: Act with Integrity” and “Be Whole: Act with Creativity.”

The exercises require honest introspection and deep interactions between you and the significant people in all facets of your life. It’s not a book you can do on your own. You will need to gain input from stakeholders. You will need them to work with you on activities that can improve working relationships. Anyone who seriously completes the exercises will move beyond a zero-sum balancing act to a leadership vision and core values that will make each portion of his or her life richer and stronger.

Reviewed by Bob Schultz, instructor, Chapman University, and educational consultant, Roseville, Calif.