Instead of taking time away from his family to study, Shushant Agarwal, WG’18, experimented with blending his family time with study time. The results brought him closer to his family and shed new light on what it means to be a holistic leader.

It is common knowledge that Wharton’s EMBA Program is academically rigorous. Once you begin the program you find that life outside of the classroom doesn’t slow down. Full-time work and family responsibilities continue to require your attention and care.

Yet your ability to balance school, work, and home is critical for your success.

When I started my EMBA journey, I had conversations with my wife, Payal and kids, Arnav and Prisha (then ages 9 and 13), about the time commitment I would need to make for this program, and how it would impact our family time. We came up with a plan for roles and responsibilities, time-sharing, and mechanisms for crunching family and social time. The overall strategy involved a shift from quantity to quality.

Although our strategy worked, I still wanted more time with my family. I wanted to find a better way to balance the different parts of my life. I tried to change a few things, but nothing made much of a difference until I took Prof. Stewart Friedman’s Total Leadership course.

The course introduces a framework for thinking about family, self, community, and work as four domains or circles of life, and how one can envision/practice harmony among these circles and emerge as a “total leader.”

Total Leadership Framework

That framework compelled me to reflect on how I can be more effective at work and school, while not losing out in my personal life.

Dedicating Time to Learning as a Family

I realized there was scope to further widen engagement with family, especially kids, and make the experience richer. The key was finding synergies among these areas of my life. For me, this meant holding combined study sessions with my family.

As we weren’t all studying the same subjects, this began as a family study hall, where we carved out time to regularly sit down together for self-study. Slowly, this evolved into knowledge sharing, as I began to share some of my business learnings with them.

Surprisingly, my kids started taking an interest in that knowledge, and they started sharing their own learnings too. This not only improved our study hall, it also created a family bonding experience.

Shushant Agarwal and his family
Shushant with his wife Payal and their two children Arnav and Prisha.

My daughter became so inspired through these sessions that she decided to join the DECA club at her school. DECA is a non-for-profit student organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management in high schools and colleges across the globe. Suddenly, we had a lot of common and interesting topics to discuss, and fun projects and presentations to work on.

After the Total Leadership class, my experience and MBA journey became richer, more fulfilling, and less stressful. I saw how a small change in mindset could have a tremendous impact on my life as well as my interactions with the key people in it.

This is a valuable lesson not just for families, but all business leaders. A willingness to experiment and implement small changes can lead to major benefits.

— Shushant Agarwal

Posted: May 4, 2018

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