Stewart D. Friedman on “Leading the Life You Want”: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Friedman-1In 1984, Stew Friedman joined Wharton, where he is the Practice Professor of Management. In 2001, he concluded a two-year assignment (while on academic leave) at Ford Motor Company, as the senior executive for leadership development.

Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life was published in 2008. Stew’s more recent book is Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life (Harvard Business School Press, 2014), a Wall Street Journal bestseller. His Total Leadership program is used worldwide, including by the 100K+ students in his MOOC. The New York Times cited the “rock star adoration” he inspires in students. He was chosen by Working Mother as one of America’s 25 most influential men to have made things better for working parents, by Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top 50 business thinkers, and by HR Magazine as one of the Most Influential Thinkers 2014. The Families and Work Institute honored him with a Work Life Legacy Award. Follow on LinkedIn and Twitter @StewFriedman and tune in to Stew’s show, Work and Life, on SiriusXM 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton, Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. (ET).

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Stew.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write Leading the Life You Want?

Friedman: After I wrote Total Leadership, which I’m pleased to say was a bestseller is now in eight languages as well as paperback, I heard two persistent themes. Many thought it was impossible to have both a successful career and fulfillment outside of work; they were skeptical and needed convincing. Others were looking for a quicker fix; the Total Leadership program takes a significant investment of time.

This new book addresses both issues. I use short biographical profiles of people who – whether you like them or not – have achieved extraordinary success in their chosen careers and who have been able to lead rich and fulfilling lives. I chose them to demonstrate that this is possible, though it’s not to say we each all become superstars like them (including Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Sandberg, and Michelle Obama). The book also includes short, practical exercises for developing each of the 18 skills in our model; exercises that can be digested in any order and at any time, in contrast to Total Leadership’s programmatic, step-by-step approach.

This book offers a tasting menu. You can focus on honing your strengths or shoring up your weaknesses in your own way, with evidence-based exercises I’ve curated from the literature in organizational psychology and related fields.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Friedman: The most important insight for me in studying the lives of many great leaders, especially the six I ended up choosing to include in the book is how, contrary to common wisdom, career success comes as a result of the commitments we make to the other parts of our lives, not in spite of them. Family, community, and the realm of the private self – your mind, body, and spirit – are all important sources of the inspiration, support, and ideas we all need to lead the lives we want.

Morris: Why did you select “leading” rather than “living” when formulating the title of your latest book?

Stewart: “Leading” is about mobilizing people toward valued goals. My purpose is to help people understand that leadership skills are useful and relevant for pursuing meaningful aspirations in all aspects of life, and that this is a choice, a decision, not a default. One of the epigrams, a quote from Walt Whitman, speaks to this much more eloquently: “Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach.”

Morris: How did you integrate the writing of this book with all your other activities and obligations, both at work and elsewhere?

Friedman: This book began to percolate as soon as Total Leadership was complete. I’ve been gathering biographies of leadership who illustrate its core ideas from my students at Wharton for a decade or so. So I’ve read hundreds of stories that show many different kinds of leaders exemplifying the principles of being real, being whole, and being innovative. Talking about these ideas and the methods for bringing them alive in venues worldwide, in organizations large and small, informed my thinking. So this project flowed naturally from my earlier work. I saw it as important for helping people see how they too could learn these principles and use them to make things better in their lives.

Morris: What did you learn about Stew Friedman while writing it that you did not know previously?

Friedman: When I was done, I felt an even deeper appreciation for the many gifts I’ve been given by my teachers and my students, and that’s why I dedicated this book to them.

Morris: For those who have not as yet read the book, you discuss six quite different people who serve as models for integrating work and the rest of life. Please suggest what you consider to be the unique skills of each of the six. First, Tom Tierney

Stewart: Tom Tierney, chairman and co-founder of Bridgespan and former CEO of Bain & Company is a master of envisioning your legacy, weaving the disparate strands of life, and seeing new ways of getting things done.

Morris: Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, is a wonderful model for conveying values with stories, building supportive networks, and resolving conflicts among various life domains.

Morris: Eric Greitens

Stewart: Former Navy SEAL, Rhodes Scholar, founder of The Mission Continues, and current candidate for Governor of Missouri, he exemplifies holding oneself accountable, and applying resources from all parts of your life to achieve important goals, and focusing relentlessly on results.

Morris: Michelle Obama

Stewart: She is a powerful example of someone who has learned how to align her actions with her values, manage boundaries across domains of life, and embrace change courageously.

Morris: Julie Foudy

Stewart: Julie Foudy, the soccer great, is an Olympic gold medal winner and World Cup champion who became an advocate for empowering women. She is a paragon of knowing what matters, helping others and challenging the status quo.

Morris: Bruce Springsteen

Stewart: The Boss embodies his values consistently, clarifies expectations with his key stakeholders, and creates cultures of innovation.

Morris: However different they may be in most respects, what do they share in common?

Stewart: In order for each of them to find a way to lead they life they wanted to live, they had to discover their particular talent or passion or gift and use it to serve others. And none of them were born with these skills; they had to learn them through dedicated effort, just like the rest of us.

* * *

Here is a direct link to the complete Part 2.

To read Part 1 of this interview, please click here.

You can follow Stew on Twitter and on LinkedIn. Tune in to his show Work and Life on SiriusXM 111, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School, Tuesdays 7:00 PM EDT.

He cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Total Leadership link

Wharton Work/Life Integration Project link

His Amazon link

His Wharton faculty page link

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