Total Leadership

I am very fortunate that we have an amazing library at my university and I have a very good relationship with Director who provides me with many library books. The downside of this is that I now have lots of interesting books on my shelves from our library in little piles. I have decided that rather than just looking at these books I actually need a plan to read them! Then I could write about them on my blog so I don’t forget about them. So, my plan is to use my commute time to work my way through my non-fiction library. I started this week with Total Leadership by Stewart D. Friedman.

Total Leadership book cover

Friedman has written on parenting and leadership (that is in my pile) but as I have just started teaching my leadership module, I thought I would start with a broader book on leadership. It is a very easy read and there are a load of great exercises in it that you can work through on your own. The basic premise is that to be a leader you need to approach leadership with authenticity, integrity and creativity. These values or qualities are used to structure a leadership development approach which looks at how to all parts of your life are connected, and to be a good leader you need to be aware of how you are operating over the four domains of your life – home, work, community and self.

In the first section on authenticity, the exercises focus on identifying your values and vision, as well as how much of your focus is on each of the domains and happy you are in each of the four domains. Then in the second section on integrity, you identify who your stakeholders are and what their expectations are of you, as well as yours of them, in each domain, building on the idea that if you are caring for your self, you will be more productive at work, more settled at home etc. You then go on to think about how you communicate with these stakeholders and identify a core set that you will spend some time meeting with to explore mutual expectations and novel ideas for how to meet these in ways that will fulfil your leadership vision and aspirations across all four domains of your life. This leads nicely on to the last section looking at creativity where, after the stakeholder conversations, you pick a few “experiments” or “four-way wins” to try to develop your leadership practice in more balanced ways. So it might be identifying boundaries, creating new ways of working, prioritising self care and so on. There are exercises for identifying measures and how to reflect on progress.

Friedman’s approach is based on leadership programmes he runs and there are examples included in the text from participants. Its a neat model and I guess I have a slight cynicism of “if only it was that easy”. But in a more positive tone, he never says it is easy and I think like any models of leadership, one takes what serves and leaves the rest. There are some good reflective exercises and the appendix has some useful ideas on how to engage in peer coaching. I can see how this approach would benefit from conversations with others and mutual accountability. I was intrigued by the stakeholder conversations activities and how these could form a kind of 360 feedback exercise but in person so a different approach. I also really liked the whole person approach to leadership which reminds me of one of my favourite leadership models by Kouzes and Posner and also Seligman’s work on positive psychology. It definitely fits more with the approaches of compassionate leadership that I have been talking about with my students.

So, all in all, I would recommend Total Leadership. And now I have finished it, I can give it back to the lovely library to share the joy!

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