Stew Friedman Blog


Does Corporate America Finally Get What Working Parents Need?

At this week’s White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama and others made a moral case for changing the way we work. “Family leave, childcare, workplace flexibility, a decent wage – these are not frills, they are basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses. They should be part of our bottom line as a society,” the president […]

Working Dads Need “Me Time” Too

With Alyssa Westring Mother’s Day is widely recognized as a day to acknowledge moms who all-too-often forsake relaxation and self-care for the sake of family, work, and community responsibilities.  It’s no surprise that many Mother’s Day gifts are designed to give Mom one day to put herself first (e.g., sleeping in, a break from chores […]

Reduce Stress by Pursuing Four-Way Wins

The pendulum is finally swinging back from the apogee of complete immersion in work as the business ideal. A great hue and cry now strains to contain our out-of-control culture of overwork. We know it reduces productivity, destroys civic engagement, and produces all manner of stress-related health problems. The good news is that you can do […]

7 Policy Changes America Needs So People Can Work and Have Kids

We are in the midst of a revolution in gender roles, both at work and at home. And when it comes to having children, the outlook is very different for those embarking on adulthood’s journey now than it was for the men and women who graduated a generation ago. I recently published research from the […]

What 800 Undergraduates Can Teach Us About Work, Parenting and Leaning In

In October 1987, I became a father. My mind flooded with questions, especially this one:  What am I going to do to make the world a safe one for my baby to grow up in? Obsessed with this question, I brought a version of it to the Wharton MBA students I was teaching about organizational behavior. I […]

The New Knight in Shining Armor

The stories we tell children transmit cultural values. Based on the surprising results of a new study my colleagues and I conducted of two generations of Wharton School graduates, I bet that today’s boys and girls are hearing new kinds of stories about men and women than the ones you heard as child from your […]

Successfully Integrate Your Work, Home, Community, and Self

You can be a committed A-player executive, a good parent, an attentive spouse, and a healthy person with time for community engagement and hobbies. How on earth do you do all that? Stop juggling and start integrating. Begin with a clear view of what you want from — and can contribute to — each domain […]

We Are All Part of the Work/Life Revolution

The Twitterverse has been aflame with a lot of noise about Sheryl Sandberg, Anne Marie Slaughter, and Marissa Mayer. But a lot of this talk is knee-jerk criticism that misses the big picture: our nation’s failure to address the issue of integrating work and the rest of life has finally emerged as a critical economic, […]

Real Leaders Have Real Lives

For years I’ve been working on helping companies to see how work, home, community, and self (mind, body, and spirit) can be mutually reinforcing; this is the “four-way wins” approach I describe inTotal Leadership. I often encounter skepticism, but some companies get it. My experience with Target should bolster anyone’s case that you can be a committed […]

New Research on Working Parenthood: Men are More Egalitarian, Women are More Realistic

In the few days since Marissa Mayer’s baby arrived, I’ve watched the resurgence — again — of the debate about working parenthood, maternity leaves, and even “baby bumps.” I have mixed feelings about this. Mayer’s situation is extremely unusual. A short maternity leave may be relatively easy for her, in part because she and her […]

“Having It All” Is Not a Women’s Issue

The resonance of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic article is testimony to how far we’ve come since 1987, when I began talking about work and family in my Wharton School classes. Back then, many students — men and women — flat-out resented it. “We’re here to learn about business, not family,” they said. And when I started the Wharton Work/Life Integration […]

How Are You Developing Future Leaders?

“Your old road is rapidly aging,” Bob Dylan proclaimed to the powers that be in 1964. “Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand.” Recent experiences have left me thinking often of that now-iconic line over the past few days; in this post, I want to encourage you to think […]

The First Couple and a New Era of Workplace Flexibility

The one thing President Obama got wrong in his remarks at the close of yesterday’s buzz-filled White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility was when he started by saying that he would not be as good as his wife, who’d spoken earlier to open the half-day meeting. Perhaps he was just being kind, or coy. From […]

Tweet or Meet? How to Choose Your Medium Wisely

When Stevie Wonder first sang “I just called to say I love you,” no one wondered whether he would have been better off tweeting his message instead of picking up the phone. Not so today. Recently, in my Wharton MBA course on leadership from the point of view of the whole person, we grappled with […]

Honing Your Skills as a Peer Coach

Okay, let’s say you and a few colleagues or friends have formed an informal peer coaching network dedicated to helping each other improve performance. What’s next? As I described in my last post, you can be either directive or nondirective in your coaching approach. Here, I’ll offer ideas for how you can increase your ability […]

How to Cultivate a Peer Coaching Network

Who’s the better quarterback, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning? Perhaps a more compelling question for you, the developing leader, is this: How did these guys — and all the great performers you might admire — get to be so good at what they do? A healthy dose of natural talent, of course — but talent […]

The Hidden Business Cost of Mental Illness

It’s hard to focus on your work when your child is hallucinating. One of the least discussed yet quite salient issues for American business in this year of health care reform is an important yet hidden cost associated with mental illness: the drain on productive work endured by family members struggling to support loved ones […]

Three Reasons Why Bruce is the Best Boss

Bruce Springsteen — great leader? You might be skeptical, but bear with me as I describe a few practical ideas we can pull from Springsteen’s repertoire of the critical “soft skills” that set the memorably high-impact leaders apart from the rest of the pack. Bruce’s epic music is a source of inspiration for millions around […]

Why The Hurt Locker Hurts

The Hurt Locker is a gripping movie — enthusiastically and universally acclaimed — about an elite team of American soldiers in Iraq “who have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world: disarming bombs in the heat of combat.” Time after time we watch the team’s new leader, Staff Sergeant William James, arrive at […]

How a Two-Minute Story Helps You Lead

Leaders gain trust and teach people what’s important to them by telling stories. But these days there’s so much to attend to — now! — coming at us so fast. You might be tempted to let slide your soft skills, like how to tell a useful story. Just get to the point and move on […]

Become a More Creative Leader — Think Small

What kind of leadership do we need now? This was the question I asked last week at the beginning of a day-long workshop attended by a group of senior-level women at a major technology firm headquartered on the west coast of the US. And I’ve been asking this question of thousands of other business professionals […]

The Power of Preventive Assessment

I just returned from Toronto where I spent some time in the hands of an amazing corps of health care professionals at Medcan, North America’s biggest preventive health clinic. I heard more than one story of how Medcan’s preventive assessments saved lives — and enormous medical cost. Medcan’s CEO, Shaun Francis, is an alumnus of […]

The Most Compelling Leadership Vision

A distinguished woman rose to speak in the front of a room of 40 fellow employees during a Total Leadership workshop I was conducting earlier this week at a large pharmaceutical company’s headquarters. “Joyous laughter — this is the sound I hear throughout the home I have built and now maintain for mentally ill women […]

The Soloist: Creating a Sound Distinctly Yours

Steve Lopez’s magnificent story (a book and now a movie) about his friendship with Nathaniel Ayers — the homeless cellist stricken with schizophrenia — provides powerful lessons about leading change that instruct and inspire. As I read the story, I found myself coming back to three themes that resonated with my own teaching on creating […]

Will the Next MBA Grads Take More Risks?

Who cares what games we choose…little to win, nothing to lose. So goes the chorus of the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s 1967 #1 hit song, Incense and Peppermints. This phrase — an iconic representation of ’60s counterculture — came to mind the other day as I read what one of my Wharton MBA students wrote in […]

Grownups Need Recess, Too

A New York Times story (the most emailed article for much of today and yesterday) reports on the positive impact school recess has on academic performance. Here’s how it begins: “The best way to improve children’s performance in the classroom may be to take them out of it.” The paradoxical lesson of this story is […]

You Are a Leader (Really!)

Too often I hear the word “leader” misused. It’s a sad fact that many business professionals don’t see themselves as leaders, mainly because “leader” is a term typically linked to people in positions of formal authority. This is a fallacy that undermines performance, in all aspects of life. Someone said to me recently, “I don’t […]

3 Steps Toward Being a Better Leader in 2009

In a recent blog post I wrote: An economic world turned upside down makes it easier to take a fresh look. This can open the door to making changes that will benefit you and the most important people in your life, now and in the long run….The crisis, in other words, can make it easier to […]

What Teach For America Can Teach You

I had the privilege of conducting a workshop on Total Leadership a few days ago at Teach For America’s headquarters in New York.  When you exit the elevator on TFA’s main floor in this modest office building on an industrial Midtown street, you see a blue wall on which these words appear in white:   […]

Leadership Lessons From an Astronaut

A few days ago, while on a break from leading a workshop at NASA’s Johnson Space Center for members of its management team (including director and former astronaut Mike Coats), I had the special privilege of touring the cavernous Building 9, which houses a mock space station, space vehicles, and other amazing things. In addition […]

Do Not Waste This Crisis

President-Elect Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, recently said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Emanuel–using a phrase of which Tom Friedman (no relation) is also fond (he heard it from economist […]

Yes, We Can Change—New Chief Shows How

One of the many reasons why President-Elect Obama inspires hope around the world is because of what he’s shown us so far of his abilities to be a profoundly effective leader of change.  A few thoughts here on some of the critically important principles he demonstrated to awesome effect in his victorious campaign, as evidenced […]

The Authenticity of Obama

As a new political era dawns, what lessons about leadership can we grasp from Obama’s triumph? So much has been said already about the man who called his last book The Audacity of Hope. I’ll focus here on one factor that stands out, and it’s the thing about him that worked political magic–Obama’s authenticity, as […]

Mental or Physical Illness–Which is the Bigger Workforce Problem?

I just returned from London, where I spoke to a gathering of European business leaders focused on creating healthier workplaces at the annual Enterprise for Health conference. I won’t tell you here how much fun it was, as the pre-dinner keynote speaker, to try to keep the attention of 125 ravenously hungry people while we […]

Resilience: What Neil Young Can Teach Microsoft, And Us

On the plane back to Philadelphia, I reflected on the workshop I’d just conducted with a group of senior women leaders at Microsoft’s Redmond, WA headquarters. I’m struck by a word one of the participants called out in response to the question I’ve asked many corporate audiences recently: “What kind of leadership do we need […]

Public Service, Anyone? After a Crisis, Rediscover Do-Gooding

In the wake of the financial sector’s fundamental restructuring, the labor market for everyone in this field (from new entrants to near retirees) is turning inside out and upside down, causing all kinds of unexpected, stomach-churning jolts to the lives of thousands. What, you might ask, are business school students thinking? Here’s a small sampling, […]

Why It’s Not Selfish To Take Care of Yourself

One of the most compelling findings Jeff Greenhaus and I reported in our research (described in our book, Work and Family–Allies or Enemies?) on the lives and careers of over 800 business professionals was this: The more time that working mothers spent taking care of themselves, the better were the emotional and physical health of […]

Focus on What Matters the Most to You

I spent a good chunk of my summer travelling the country, speaking about work and how to make it fit with the rest of life in ways that are good both for companies and the people employed by them. I talked to thousands of people. I listened closely to the pulse of American business. There’s […]

Tough Economy? Smart Managers Dial the Stress Level Down, Not Up

The knee-jerk response to cost-reduction pressures in an economic downturn is turn up the heat to wring greater productivity out of your work force. This is not your best option, and will hurt more than help. A smarter approach is to get more out of your people by tapping into what people really care about, […]

A Conversation with Tom Tierney

Tom has graciously given his time to visit my Wharton classes for many years. Students absolutely rave about his sessions, many asserting that it’s the very best class in the entire first year MBA program. I like to think of him as the Bono of Leadership. He is one of the most thoughtful and inspiring speakers on the subject of leadership that I have ever heard, and I’ve never seen him hit a bad note.

Remembering a Master of Leadership

Joel DeLuca, the noted author and lecturer on leadership and organizational behavior, passed away a couple of weeks ago, at 60. I am grateful for the chance to offer a few observations about the impact that he had on the world, and on me. I had the great fortune of meeting Joel, in the early […]

Visions of Young Women

For the past couple of years, I’ve had the good fortune of speaking at the Broad Advantage conference in New York. Part of Janet Hanson’s amazing organization, 85 Broads, this weeklong program offers an array of speakers and experiences for about 100 college women who are interested in business careers. A few days ago I […]

How Do Your Work and Community Affect Each Other?

I spoke about my book, Total Leadership, a couple of days ago at Silberline, a global supplier of effect pigments located near Allentown, PA. The top team, about forty in all, was present for a brief workshop on the main ideas and tools. In our session I had participants do a simple exercise from the […]

Do You Hide Your Inner Bruce Wayne?

With my sons and wife, I was among the teeming masses at the movies last night to view the most awaited film of the year, The Dark Knight. I promise not to give away the story here. I’ll just raise a few questions that might help us learn something about leadership and life from this […]

Master the Art of Interruptibility

Since the publication of my book a month ago, I’ve been speaking at companies and communities nationwide. There’s one refrain I hear over and over: “I can’t escape. Performance demands engulf continually. I feel like I’m permanently at work!” In my talks, I like to propose a small experiment that helps both to elucidate this […]

What Google Taught Me About Personal Communication

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking in the Leading@Google series at the company’s storied Mountain view campus. It is a remarkable place. Yes, the food is amazing, and it’s everywhere (you are always within 100 feet of free, fantastic fare). Yes, the surfaces are ecologically sound and the use of […]

Sports: The Language of Connection

The sporting world abounds this time of year, and I’m deep into it. The baseball season is underway and it’s the intoxicating time of NHL and NBA playoffs (in which my home teams, from Philadephia, are represented). Two days ago I was in New York, presenting to a group of 300 executives at ESPN’s Women’s […]

Overcome Your Fear of Trying Something New

In a recent Fortune interview, Google co-founder Larry Page discussed his company’s early days: “You have this fear of failing and of doing something new, which is very natural. In order to do stuff that matters, you need to overcome that.” When it comes to creating new ways of getting work done to improve performance […]

Leadership on The Wire

Popular culture can be a great source of material for lessons about leadership and the daunting challenge of creating meaningful, sustainable change in organizations and society–and it can provide a way to connect work, home, community, and self. For example, in the first meeting of my leadership and teamwork course in Wharton’s MBA program this […]

A More Holistic Approach to Problem Solving

When you’re stuck on a problem, it often helps to step back and look at the bigger picture. You see things differently and discover new solutions. What I ask participants in my Total Leadership program to do is take the “four-way-view” – the interaction among work, home, community, and self – and come up with […]

The First Step to a Richer Life

Did you know that having lunch with a new colleague at work every week can improve your marriage and make you a better citizen? Or that writing a novel can make you a more productive, committed IT director and a better father? These are just a couple of the thousands of examples I’ve seen of […]

Don’t Leave Your Personal Life at Home

You’re not paying attention to your family, your community, your private self? All you have time for is your career? You’re making a big mistake. How things are going at home, in your community, and in your interior life all influence whether you perform well at work. Over 20 years of research and practice on  […]

Better Leader, Richer Life

stew friedman Stew Friedman blogs about how to improve performance in all domains of life — work, home, community, and self (mind, body, and spirit) — by integrating them better.