We all talk about it. Most of us aspire to it; few of us, if any, ever achieve it. Some believe it’s something granted by employers. Others see it as something more personal and private. As it turns out, we can’t have it all. Work/life balance is elusive – a misguided metaphor, according to Wharton professor and foremost authority on business leadership Stew Friedman. “You win, I lose,” he explains. “It assumes you must give up something in one part of life in order to gain in another.”

Instead of thinking only in terms of trade-offs, the goal is to integrate the four core domains of life: work, family, community, and self (mind, body, and spirit). And according to Friedman, world-renowned in the fields of leadership development and work/life integration, it can be done – a fact more and more leaders and companies are catching onto as they embrace his advice and embody his leadership frameworks.

“Great leaders who are truly successful are those who discover and demonstrate over the course of their careers – through trial and error, experimentation, failure, success, assessment, and coaching – that you don’t need to forsake your family, community or self. Rather, they bring the strengths, assets, and qualities that are important in their lives into their work,” explains Friedman.

Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2014), Friedman’s most recent nationally bestselling book, uses the stories of six admirable leaders, including Sheryl Sandberg and Bruce Springsteen, to demonstrate that significant success is accomplished not at the expense of the rest of life, but as the result of meaningful engagement in all parts. Drawing on more than 30 years of empirical and practical research, he also delves into three principles universally applied by those who are most successful in integrating work and life – whether an individual, manager or executive.

  1. Be real. Act with authenticity by clarifying what matters most to you. This is the cornerstone of any attempt to grow as leaders.
  2. Be whole. Respect the whole person. Who are the key people who matter most to you now and in the future? Where is there conflict? Compatibility?
  3. Be innovative. Challenge the status quo. Continuously experiment with how you get things done. Find new ways of doing things that are better – not just for you, but for your business, for your community, for all.

Sure, it runs counter to the command-and-control ideology that still exists in many organizations today. “Taking care of family, community, and self to improve performance and results at work – that is the goal,” he explains. “When you demonstrate this and convey your story of success, then it starts to spread. It’s not threatening. It’s beneficial.”

Founding Director of the Wharton Leadership Program and Wharton’s Work/Life Integration Project – both launched in 1991 – Friedman has long studied how employers and employees can better serve each other. Instead of balance, learn through real-world practice how to pursue what he calls “four-way wins,” which he not only preaches, but practices too. During his executive tenure at Ford Motor Company, Friedman redesigned the company’s cutting-edge leadership development program (which became recognized as a “global benchmark”), all while making family dinner a priority, as he shared in a recent video.

Friedman’s Total Leadership framework is used by individuals and companies worldwide. An inspiring speaker, teacher and advisor, he delivers engaging keynotes and conducts immersive workshops globally on leadership and the whole person, creating sustainable change, and strategic human resources issues. Tune into his weekly “Work and Life” national radio show to hear more.