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Week 1 Assignment: Starting Total Leadership

This document provides examples of responses to the questions asked in the Week 1 Assignment:
Starting Total Leadership. These examples are provided as a guide to demonstrate what an
excellent response looks like. They were all composed by Wharton students (some of whom were
in our Executive MBA program, called WEMBA). They each gave permission for their responses
to be shared with future students.

1.A Alumni Reflections


This exercise helps you understand more of what our course is about, from the perspective of
people who have taken it. Please view at least two of the Reflections videos on the TLTV Network
page of our Total Leadership Web site. Then write a comment about each of these two video clips
(in a short paragraph for each) describing what you learned from listening to these alumni
speaking about their experience.
Please note that on the Reflections channel there are two kinds of videos: Reflections (from Basile
through Winters) and Q&A (starting with "Changes in Alignment?"). Please view two of the
Reflections videos, not the Q&A videos.
Example 1
Deika Morrison - Deika describes that as Wharton students we feel like getting to CEO is the
end game, but upon reaching this high perch we discover theres nothing there. As an
achievement-oriented person, I am constantly seeking to overcome successively more
difficult challenges. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment but must quickly find a new
mountain to climb or I feel stagnant. What Deika describes is consistent with my
experience, in that there may not be anything at the top of the mountain other than a
fleeting, selfish moment. She advises that Total Leadership helped her appreciate the
importance of the means of travelling through life rather than just the looking to the

end. I hope to gain a similar reorientation through the course, so that I can be more
settled in how I am living my life in each moment instead of racing to the finish line.
Kirk Brown - Based on his experience, Kirk relates his observation that ineffective leaders
werent clear in their personal visions. He describes the importance of understanding where
youre headed before you can expect others to follow you. I feel that I hold a wide variety of
interests, passions, and observations of activities that Im good at and enjoy doing. My
experiences at Wharton have yielded a wealth of fresh insights, through countless courses
and interpersonal challenges. What I havent yet done is methodically establish order to
these thoughts and feelings, while at the same time considering my broader life priorities,
such as my family. Making sense of who I am and matching this understanding to
opportunities and choices in the external environment has often felt overwhelming. At the
same time, I can attest that living without a clear vision has been unbelievably taxing. Kirk
has helped me see that defining my vision now is vital to establishing stability and purpose
in my life while enabling me to begin exercising true leadership. My vision today doesnt
have to be perfect; I need to start somewhere and I can always revise and update it
tomorrow.
Example 2
Deika Morrison Clip. A few comments from Deika that resonated with me include:
There is no course that the requirement is you.
This course is has been transformational in all domains.
Deikas clip was inspirational and eye-opening with regard to the transformational
journey to come. It certainly feels more real now. I feel that I am just scratching at the
surface of some really powerful and life changing decisions and opportunities but not sure
how to dig in and go about establishing a solid plan of action (or framework) to proceed
forward. It feels very easy to continue putting off improvements in myself given how busy I

am but this will only intensify over time. NOW is the time to invest in my commitment to
this class in order to achieve the desired outcomes. I am open to improvement.
Deikas comments also reinforced my concern that I am not doing a good job
communicating with those who matter around me. NOW is the time to force myself to look
inward and better engage the key stakeholders around me.
Kirk Brown Clip - I was intrigued by the tools, approaches and skill sets needed to extract
knowledge and deliverable from key stakeholders that Kirk talked about vis--vis how to
influence those around us. This is an area where I feel that I can greatly improve. I was
also taken by his comment about the importance of vision and understanding where going
before trying to lead people. Through the course, he came to realize that a lot of the people
he didnt respect dont have a vision of where theyre going. I feel that I may be in a similar
position now with a co-worker and look forward to learning more about this in class.
The importance of stakeholder dialogues also resonated with me. As I am reflecting and
writing responses to the first set of exercises, I am realizing more and more that my
communications with some (if not all) of the key stakeholders in my life has just scratched
the surface and there is likely serious room for improvement here that could have powerful
consequences. For example, I am not sure that I have ever asked or been told by the
partners at my firm what their expectations are of me? I know very clearly what I expect of
myself and communicate this to them but sense that there could be a major misalignment
here. I look forward to learning more.
Finally, Kirks comment about continuing to experiment also hit home. Right now, I feel
somewhat restless. I am at Wharton to create change and opportunity. The last eight
years professionally have felt somewhat stagnant, and I feel a strong desire to be further
challenged and achieve more. I am agitating for a new direction and need to further reflect
here and better clarify this feeling.

Example 3
Rich Cisek - I think Richs comments are so common amongst so many of us with the same
way we live our lives and the types of people that are very driven to do something
different. One comment that struck out to me was how he had reflected on his life and his
professional accomplishments. Rich noted that despite all of the grand achievements that
he had made towards his organization and work circle, it didnt mean much in the grand
scheme of things with his life. I feel the same way. I use my wife as a litmus test for
this. As a younger man, I had the unique opportunity (more like mandatory suggestion) to
attend the US Armys elite Ranger school. A 62-day fun filled experience that is deemed
the Armys premier leadership school. More like it was 62 days of hunger, sleep
deprivation, carrying heavy loads on our back, and leading others under the most extreme
conditions ending with 30 lbs of weight loss and a small piece of cloth on your shoulder that
cost $0.50 at the store. The day I graduated was one of the happiest days of my life. When
I explained this to my wife when we were dating, she shrugged her shoulders and asked
me, So why did you do this if it was so terrible?. I asked myself the same question and
what it actually equated to in my life. Since then, Ive tried to live my life in parallel like Rich
talks about, pushing myself to the extreme and never accepting defeat or failure as a final
outcome.
Deika Morrison - Great perspectives- its not about the results. Deikas comments are about
how I work and how I live life. Its about the process of getting there that make the results
so much worth while. I wouldnt have come to Wharton and much less the EMBA program
unless I wanted to experience a challenge, push myself to the limits, learn about myself, and
start a different path. I think Deika was trying to say that she just wasnt comfortable or
understood herself. Thats what I want to get out of this. Like with my comments above on
Ranger school, the experience helped me learn about myself, my leadership style, and what
I didnt want to become. I think the process is just as (if not more) important to this course
than the actual outcomes.

1.B Goals
As you are about to embark on your journey through our course, please describe, in a paragraph
or two, (a) what led you to sign up for it and (b) what you hope to gain from it. Take a few
moments to let your responses come to mind, then record your thoughts.
Example 1
One of the main reasons I came to business school and to Wharton specifically was for its
leadership programs as well as the immense opportunities to deepen my sense of selfawareness, values and priorities. I have benefitted deeply from my experience to date with
the Ventures Program, both as a participant and Venture Fellow, as well as the Leadership
Development & Coaching Program (LDCP). I view Total Leadership as a way to take these
experiences to the next level and apply them directly to each facet of my life. The holistic
nature of TL is really incredible, as it will not only touch all parts of my life but also integrate
them in a beneficial way. Prior to getting started with TL, I didnt fully consider the ways in
which I could realize synergies across various domains and this is one of the things Im most
looking forward to in the class.
I hope to emerge from TL with a greater sense of purpose and the ability to continuously
achieve four way wins even as I undergo significant changes like starting a new career
path or beginning a significant relationship. I would like to be able to use TL principles to
improve productivity and satisfaction for myself and others in my life e.g., to foster
greater morale and cohesiveness with teams and employees. Overall, I aim to become more
comfortable with seeing all aspects of my life as symbiotic elements that can and should
coexist in harmony and also intend to take steps to ensure that I am living my life in a way
that aligns with what is most important to me.
Example 2
After 16 months in the WEMBA program, I have observed that my formula for prioritizing
my time, energy, and commitment has had a concerning impact on important areas of my

life. I entered Wharton with a wealth of motivation to resolve an ongoing dilemma


regarding what I wanted to do in my career. Through the programs intense demands and
my motivated approach to classes, I have gained the comprehensive learning experience I
had been seeking, building skills and relationships while deriving valuable new insights on
my career possibilities. During this period, I have been relentlessly motivated on a daily
basis to complete my schoolwork, in order to gain significant value from my classes but also
to generate free time to spend with my wife and 2-year old daughter. When Im not in
Philadelphia, I am home for dinner in the evenings and I read my daughter bedtime stories
each night before putting her to bed. I feel actively involved as a father but at the same
time I am not nearly as emotionally available to my wife as I wish, and this bothers me.
Aside from school and my immediate family, I have completely pushed aside other vital
activities, such as keeping in touch with my parents, siblings, and friends, performing
necessary housework, and getting enough sleep. I have withdrawn from my previous
community service activities. My attention to schoolwork has often severely limited my
availability to even my wife and daughter, such as on a recent vacation with my side of the
family when I spent the majority of time at the library working on five concurrent, timeconsuming assignments while my wife and daughter were with my parents and siblings. I
have been performing considerable amounts of schoolwork at my job, which I feel guilty
about at times. I rationalize it by ensuring that I am adequately fulfilling my work
responsibilities, by delegating development opportunities to my staff, and by recognizing
that my company is investing in my education so that I will deliver much greater
contributions in the future. Within my company, I have recently accepted a new job that will
begin in four months time and offers an appealing opportunity to impact the firms financial
strategy and planning processes. This will change the paradigm for me, as I will no longer
be able to complete homework on the job, and, knowing myself, I will seek to start my new
position with a motivated and detail-oriented approach.
While WEMBA will end next year, my wife and I are concerned that a new, revitalized
career will merely replace the time and energy requirements of Wharton. Given that my
approach to school has involved neglecting many important activities and relationships, I

must derive a new orientation. I want to be a present and engaged husband, father, son,
and friend but at the same time I desire a rewarding and productive career path. I am
drawn to the Total Leadership program as a means of learning to bridge the gap between
where Ive been, as a focused but single-minded student, to where I hope to go, as an active
and engaged member in each key area of my life. I feel that theres currently an ongoing
battle for me between home and school, and my new job poses a new potentially
competing priority. Instead of living with confusing tradeoffs, I am ready to engage in a
process of clarifying what is most important to me and questioning the ways I have been
spending my time and energy. With this new understanding, I want to devise new solutions
that enable me to set aside the potential tradeoffs in favor of a whole, sustainable view of
the future. I am particularly looking to break new, more emotionally deep ground with my
wife, so that I can feel more connected, clarify a shared vision, and adopt new, more
supportive behaviors that can be sustainably incorporated into my daily routine. Finally, I
want to look further ahead and clarify where Im headed in my life, so that I can better
enjoy the journey and align my efforts in the right direction.
Example 3
I have alluded to some of my goals above, but to summarize it all, I want to use an
extended analogy to Tiger Woods' golf swing. His swing is grounded in basic fundamentals.
It is pure. Yet, every few years he re-tools his swing completely and gets even better. For
me, I believe that the tools I have now are adequate, and they have helped me achieve
many things. However, I realize the need to periodically and frequently re-tool my arsenal
to become even better and more effective. To do so, I seek solid coaching from the
professor and my peers.
Specifically, I want to add the following tools to my arsenal: i) the ability to effectively rally
people in support of my goals; ii) the ability to focus all of my energies and activities on the
cohesive life-time goal(s) I will have identified; and iii) to be able to better receive advice
and be more comfortable in experimenting with productive approaches to constantly
improve myself.

1.C Skills

This exercise helps you focus on the skills you most want to develop in our course. First, please
view the one-page skills assessment tool at the Total Leadership Web site, here. Then, please
choose the two or three skills from the list of 18 that you would most like to focus on as you go
through our course. In a sentence, please explain why each of these two or three skills is important
to you.

Example 1
Skill #1 I make choices about how to spend my time and energy that match what I really
care about.

I end up spending a lot of time on relatively-less-important tasks. I can do a better job of


prioritizing and focusing on progress, not perfection to free up time for priorities in my
self and home arenas.

Skill #2 I tell stories of the key events that have shaped my values in a way that makes me
closer to others.

I would like to gain this skill and use it purposefully as part of my leadership style. I dont
consider myself to have a natural knack for story-telling, but Im hoping I can improve
through practice.

Skill #3 I communicate with people important to me about expectations we have of each


other, and I make sure these expectations are clear.

I could improve many relationships quite a bit by better understanding expectations. It has
never occurred to me to explore expectations in personal relationships, even though I know
from professional experience that satisfaction depends on expectations.

Skill #4 I look for creative solutions to conflicts to help meet my goals in the different parts
of life rather than sacrificing one part for another.

In the past I have tended to take a rigid approach to prioritizing my commitments work at
the expense of personal or family time, for example and I would love to reframe my
commitments as both/and instead of either/or.

Example 2
I hold myself accountable for doing what is most important to me in my life (Being real). I
think my biggest issue in this space is that I get lost in the day-to-day deliverables in my life
and find myself constantly working on whatever is urgent at that time. I think part of the
problem is that I have not fully taken stock of what my priorities in life are, and having
defined this, I need to hold myself to those priorities on an ongoing basis.

I am able to create boundaries between the different parts of my life to help me meet
important needs and goals (Being whole). I do not think that I am effective in this space at
all; I frequently put other aspects of my life on hold to complete deliverables in other areas
that may not be as important. Being able to better integrate different areas of my life, or at
a minimum to hold myself as responsible for commitments to others or myself in non-work
areas would be a huge win for me.

Example 3
I seek creative solutions to conflicts to meet goals in different parts of life rather than
sacrificing one part for another - I frequently feel as though parts of my life come into direct
conflict with one another and I often prioritize one by completely ignoring another. The
most common is example is the conflict between my physical health (exercise, eating well)
and my social life, both because there does not always seem to be enough time to do both
and because going out (and drinking alcohol) causes me to feel physically unhealthy.

I use skills and contacts from different parts of my life to help meet goals in other parts of
my life - I feel that I have become a much better "leader" at work and school, where I have
been focused on developing my weaknesses (e.g., becoming a better listener and more
flexible/collaborative). It's disappointing to me that I often revert back to old bad habits
when interacting with family or friends.